THE manager of a Worcester shopping centre has warned that city centre businesses could suffer in the future if flooding within the county is not better managed.

Erica Burlace, manager of CrownGate Shopping Centre, said during the recent floods reports showed that shoppers chose to go elsewhere if they knew they could get the same deal from shops there.

Miss Burlace said shoppers may choose to shop at an indoor venue such as Merry Hill, near Dudley, where they could do all their shopping under one roof rather than venture into Worcester city centre.

She said this may mean that shoppers then make this their primary shopping destination leaving local businesses struggling to win back their custom.

Miss Burlace said: “During the flood, trade reports demonstrated that stores with a mirrored offer in competing towns picked up significantly when compared to Worcester.

“If flooding is perceived to be causing difficulties, people will literally use an alternative shopping destination – quite quickly what was a secondary choice to Worcester city centre can become a first choice, and it is then a difficult and long-winded process to win back the trust of the customer.

“This means that as well as managing the practical, environmental and safety impact of flooding on the city centre and surrounding areas, it is also imperative that as many businesses and organisations join together to support our local economy and communities by issuing regular flood updates and travel/access information as well as positive ‘business as usual’ messages to prevent customers going elsewhere.”

However despite this, trade in CrownGate Shopping Centre during the week of December 30 was up 11 per cent on the same week last year compared to a national benchmark of 4.3 per cent.

The busiest shopping day was December 22.

Miss Burlace said: “On the whole, 2012 was a tough year for retailers, and, like many shopping centres across the country, we have been saddened to see the closure of some of our retailers.

“We will be working closely with Worcester BID and all of our stores throughout 2013 to help boost footfall and trade wherever possible.”

Nationally, Debenhams, which has a store in CrownGate, hailed its best ever December performance after ramping up pre-Christmas discounting to attract cost-conscious shoppers.

But figures released today also showed that many shoppers shunned the high street over Christmas, with a 18 per cent rise in internet sales.