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Bucking shopping trends
TRADE chiefs believe Malvern’s ‘one-of-a-kind’ town centre will protect it from troubles facing traditional high street shopping.
Fears are growing for the high street and even the most established retailers after the British Retail Consortium (BRC) released “underwhelming”
figures showing UK retail sales in December.
With the online market continuing to grow and leading names like Comet and Jessop hitting the wall in recent weeks the BRC fears 2013 will be another tough year.
But Malvern is showing promising signs of bucking the trend, according to Chris Marks, the chairman of Great Malvern Association of Traders (GMAT).
He said his own business, Iapetus Gallery, in Belle Vue Terrace, had enjoyed a strong Christmas, with sales up by nine per cent over the previous year, and that he believed other local businesses also held their own.
He also believes Malvern’s ‘bespoke’ offering of independent stores makes it fighting fit to tackle any troubles ahead. “We are very fortunate to have such a strong independent offering mixed in with some very good multiples,”
“I do think it is a big advantage that we as a town centre have over more generic high streets. In many places it is essentially all the shops that you would find anywhere else.” Shops in Worcester say they lost trade to out-of-town malls such as Merry Hill, near Dudley, because of flooding over the festive period.
Erica Burlace, manager of Worcester’s CrownGate centre, said it would be particularly difficult for shops where customers can find the same offering elsewhere to win custom back.
Conversely, Mr Marks believes Malvern may have benefited from more people staying in the town due to travel difficulties, and that Malvern’s “one-of-a-kind”
offering makes it unlikely shoppers would find a replacement elsewhere. His stance was supported by Coun Phil Grove, portfolio holder for economic development at Malvern Hills District Council.
He said: “All high streets are facing a challenging time and the Malvern Hills district is not insulated from this.
“However, we are fortunate to have relatively buoyant town centres in terms of occupancy and an excellent range of quality independent shops.
“We would encourage residents to support their local traders, especially during the traditionally quieter months of January and February.”
The BRC figures showed retail sales values grew by just 1.5 per cent on the previous year during December.
The rise the previous year was 4.1 per cent.
Director General Helen Dickinson said: “Retailers will be hoping a continuing boost from post-Christmas sales events strengthens January’s figures but, unfortunately, there are few signs that their sense of ‘running fast to stand still’ is likely to ease off any time soon.”