Shops witness mixed bag in festive trade

SHOPS and other retailers have seen a mixed bag in trade over the Christmas and January sales period with more shoppers choosing to remain cautious on their spending.

Although most businesses have enjoyed a buoyant trade in the first week of 2013, the numbers out shopping in the run-up to Christmas was down overall.

John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “Christmas was pretty late this year with people hanging on for sales. Some retailers have shown strong growth compared to last year, such as Robert Dyas and Thorntons. Poundland especially had a good Christmas.”

He said footfall, that is the number of shoppers entering Priory Meadow, was down by 10 per cent overall for Christmas in 2012, compared to the previous year.

Mr Hough added: “It’s not just us that has seen a drop, as it’s pretty much the same across most shopping centres, largely because of internet shopping. The general economic gloom is what is dragging shops down. There is lots of public sector employment in Hastings are people are worried about their jobs.

“But we bounced back as Priory Meadow saw a three per cent increase in footfall - around 104,000 people - in the first week of this month.”

Almost 9,000 people used the ice rink in Priory Meadow in the run-up to Christmas, Mr Hough said, which was a slight drop from 2011 but he put that down to the rink not being open for as long this year.

He said: “On the evening Chesney Hawkes came to Priory Meadow to open the rink and Christmas market (December 6) we saw a 27 per cent increase in footfall, compared to the same day in 2011 so this proves events like this really do bring people in.”

Town centre trade has already suffered several blows this year.

Last Saturday (January 12), five people working at Jessops in Priory Meadow were made redundant when the camera retailer closed down.

All of its branches have now shut, resulting in the loss of more than 1,370 jobs across the country, after the firm went into administration.

Staff at HMV, also in Priory Meadow, face an uncertain future and could lose their jobs after the business went into administration on Tuesday, alongside Blockbuster Video, which has a branch in Queens Road.

Administrators are currently searching for a buyer for both chains.

HMV and Blockbuster are the latest High Street chain to suffer financial problems due to the ongoing recession. Comet went bust last month, which led to the store at Ravenside Retail Park outside Bexhill shutting.

Rob Woods, town centre manager, said footfall last month in the town centre was 560,000 but added it was still down compared to December 2011, which saw more than 600,000 shoppers.

He added: “My guess is that things would have been a lot worse if we had not invested in the town this year with new decorations, an ice rink and traditional Christmas market.”