DESPITE a year-on-year slump, Chichester city centre is still ‘holding its own’ against national shopping trends.
According to the city’s footfall figures, the overall number of shoppers on Chichester’s streets in 2013 fell by 6.47 per cent from 2012.
The recent figures are only 3.29 per cent higher than those recorded during 2010, when the high street faced a tough year after the recession hit.
However, it is not all bad news.
“Between 2007-2012, the national trend was down 25 per cent, according to figures from Springboard,” said Ben Cooper, speaking on behalf of the City Centre Partnership. “Chichester is bucking the trend and is really holding its own.”
In 2013, January, March and November achieved higher overall footfall than the same months in 2012. There were also five days in the year where footfall exceeded expectations, with Saturday, June 1, pulling in 77,625 people.
“Days where the footfall is over 60,000 show the city is doing really well,” said Mr Cooper.
“The five days in particular fell on Fridays and Saturdays in a four-week period from May to June. But we aren’t sure why these days were so popular.”
However, the popular days were not enough to bring the month average above 2012 in May or June
With high street stalwarts such as HMV having faced an uncertain future and Blockbuster, Jessops and small chain Trident Blinds going into administration, Chichester’s Business Improvement District has been pulling out the stops to make the most of the high street.
Enterprising days such as Independent’s Day on July 4, aimed to celebrate the city’s independent businesses.
Even with dozens of unique shops taking part in promotions the city struggled to pull in more visitors than the year before. However, the event was hailed as a success.
“We were so pleased with the support we got from our independent shops but we’re sure we can do better next year,” said city centre manager Kim Long.
Footfall figures in July remained strong despite a two-week heatwave and the month received the highest footfall figures of the year.
Large events at Goodwood, including the Festival of Speed, in July, and September’s Revival, made surprisingly little impact on city centre footfall figures but the city centre partnership has noticed a steady rise in Sunday shoppers.
“One of the big things we have noticed is a move to Sunday shopping because it is cheaper to park on a Sunday,” said Mr Cooper. “You can still get everything you need, but the roads are quieter too.”
February to April and September to November are notoriously quieter months in the shopping calendar and city centre bosses said they will be developing a new marketing strategy.
“We are going to use this information to market the city centre,” said Mr Cooper. “Instead of holding events in summer, perhaps we need to look at the quieter months.”
A SLOW start to the festive season saw British high streets suffering their biggest drop in numbers of shoppers for more than a year.
National figures show a 3.4 per cent drop in footfall for high streets between September and November – the sharpest fall since August, 2012.
The Christmas period did not pick up either, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). Its latest monthly footfall monitor showed national shopper numbers declined 1.2 per cent in December 2013, compared with a year earlier.
Footfall figures suggest Chichester is no exception. Figures for December show a 8.27 per cent drop compared to those recorded in 2012.
Despite a strong November – which saw a 14 per cent increase in visitors, footfall during the Christmas lights switch-on only reached 36,916 compared to the previous year’s figures of 48,764 – a difference of more than 10,000 despite the 2012 event being cancelled at the last minute.
The Saturday before Christmas attracted 48,310 people to the city.
But, on the same day in 2012, a huge 32.5 per cent more people took to the high street to pick up last minute presents.
As well as the impact of online shopping, visitors may also have been put off by the wet weather on the run up to Christmas with national figures showing ‘record’ online sales in December.
However, the much-anticipated visit from the Coca Cola truck on the Friday before Christmas gave the city a festive boost. Footfall shows the city had approximately 47,784 visitors on Friday, December 20, a significant 6.7 per cent increase on the same day last year.
“The Coca Cola lorry was the last spectacle of 15 days of events that started with the light switch on and fireworks,” said Kim Long.
“At some times in the day the queue was an hour and a half long.”