SHOPPERS on the hunt for last-minute Christmas bargains are being encouraged to use their local shops and provide businesses with a festive shot in the arm.
Earlier this year Hastings enjoyed an increase in the number of people visiting the town centre shopping area – with footfall figures between April and September at their highest level since 2011 and significantly up on last year.
The levels are monitored by cameras in and around the town centre to provide an indication of how many people are using the local shops. The hope was that the trend would continue over the autumn period and into Christmas.
However, earlier this week the town centre manager told the Observer Christmas spending could do with a late boost.
Rob Woods said: “At this stage I only have anecdotal evidence that supports our predictions of erratic spending patterns which I expect will carry on right up to the last weekend before Christmas.
“The latest national footfall numbers showed a 2.9 per cent drop in visits to high streets, out-of-town sites and shopping centres in November while online sales rose significantly.
“I’m not surprised at the increase in online spend. Apart from the convenience factor, there has been high consumer spend on things like i-Pads and games consoles which will leave consumers with less money in their pocket for other items.”
But he said there was plenty on offer in the town centre to tempt shoppers away from their PCs and into local stores.
Urging people to use local businesses, he added: “With around 350 shops in the town centre there is a wealth of Christmas gift ideas for last minute shoppers.
“I would advise shoppers not only to experience the ice rink and shopping in Priory Meadow but also take time to explore other areas like Robertson Street, Claremont, Trinity Street and Queens Road where we are blessed with a lot of small, independent traders who recycle their income in to the local economy.
“I am pleased that the investment in lighting, events, the ice rink and free parking have all been well received locally and that more and more of the town centre’s shops are offering click and collect facilities to redress the balance.
“I think Hastings has ‘done’ Christmas well – there is a special atmosphere in the town centre which I hope more people will come to experience.”