DESPITE pulling out all the stops to attract Christmas shoppers, footfall figures were down during December in Bournemouth town centre.
The “disappointing” festive trading statistics were revealed at a Town Hall meeting of the Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce Local Government Affairs Committee.
Town centre manager Roger Parker said December had been “a critical time” for the retail, leisure and hospitality industry. For the first time an ice rink, commissioned by the Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID), had been installed in the Lower Gardens, new festive lighting had been erected and Christmas advertising stepped up.
He added: “We tried to reach out and do the best we could for the town, with the available resources, and people seemed to appreciate the effort.”
However December footfall figures had been down on the previous two years. Mr Parker admitted “December was something of a disappointment”, adding that adverse weather, the late start to Christmas shopping and the road collapse on Commercial Road, where one of two footfall cameras operate, could have taken their toll on trade figures.
He stressed that weekends had been “particularly strong,” with early week footfall figures “particularly weak”.
Castlepoint manager Peter Matthews said the number of cars visiting the shopping centre had risen by 10,000, compared with the previous year, but reflected: “Car numbers may be up but what are people spending?
“The customer has become very savvy – they wait for a bargain to arrive and then go for it. Food retailers seemed to do really well while it was tough for clothing outlets.
“Those who got it right and put in the effort reaped the benefits. Some cut and cut; with fewer people working on the shop floor than ever. Sooner or later they will have to employ more people to cope with the level of demand. Retailers are positive; we were pleased with Christmas trading.”
Speaking after the meeting chairman and BID Board member Nigel Hedges said: “I’m not a great fan of footfall figures; they are a bit like speed cameras and don’t tell the whole story, particularly when one of our only two cameras was not working properly for several weeks.
“Traders pay an average levy of £200 to £300 a year to the BID which, I believe, represents value for money. A total of £7million is being spent over five years which is a fantastic amount of money. The BID achieved so much, in a very short time, which would never have been achievable before.”
- THE Bournemouth Town Centre BID and the Coastal BID were officially launched in September 2012. Traders pay a levy towards the BID which aims to promote the area to local residents as well as visitors.
The town centre rangers are funded by the BID and the temporary outdoor ice rink in the Lower Central Gardens was commissioned and partly funded by the BID.
BID Town Centre manager Gregg Dunnett was unavailable for comment yesterday.
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