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Gloucestershire Business News

Shoppers tail off to eight-year-low as bad weather hits retailers

If the bad weather through Easter made you feel gloomy spare a thought for the retail sector.

The latest figures show the dismal weather kept shoppers away from the high street causing the biggest drop in numbers since 2010.

Gloucestershire reflected the national picture.

Figures from Springboard saw visitor numbers to UK high streets fall 8.6 per cent with shopping centres seeing a 4.8 per cent decline and retail parks 1.8 per cent.

Peter White, manager of King's Walk Shopping Centre in Gloucester, called the start to the year and especially Easter "extremely difficult", but said medium to long term it was a different picture.

"It is difficult to be positive just looking at the figures. Our figures for quarter one are down 6.7 per cent. That is 1.8 million visitors as opposed to 2.01 million at the same time last year.

"But I do not see footfall as the be all and end all. At the end of the day it is also about the money that goes into the tills as well.

"And over Easter alone our figures were actually up year on year with just over 74,000 people through, despite the weather. That is up just over one per cent."

He added: "The big, big positive for us is the ongoing planning applications going through the process and the heavy investment planned by London-based Reef Estates (owners of the shopping centre)."

Read more: Debenhams profits to fall by half 

This would help counter not just the gloomy start to the year, he said, but the impact had by the closure of the likes of Argos, BHS and Burger King all at the Eastgate end of King's Walk.

"It is looking very positive for the future," said Mr White.

Scott Lahive, director of the Regent Arcade, Cheltenham, said the picture was much the same in Cheltenham with some good weeks and some bad weeks, the latter put down to the cold weather keeping people away.

"Christmas was not great for a lot of retailers either. Many of them rely on the period to see them through the traditionally quieter start to the year - which is why you have seen the situation you have with some retailers getting into trouble."

The high street had, he said, been caught flat-footed by the internet and still needed to adapt.

"John Lewis will be great news for Cheltenham," said Mr Lahive, of the department store which plans to open at the end of this year near to the entrance to Regent Arcade.

He agreed with Mr White that investment begot investment, and he said there were big plans afoot for Regent Arcade.

But he called on the local authorities on both sides of the Golden Valley to think about the impact on the high street of out of town retail parks with free parking.

"They are threatening the viability of the town centres," he said.

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