A 30 per cent drop in summer footfall in the city centre has been brandished ‘apocalyptic’ by a district councillor.
Since the 2008 banking crash, shoppers are down 25 per cent in Chichester, or 30 million people, against a national average of 20 per cent, a meeting heard.
Chichester BID chairman said however that if businesses adapt and the city’s unique offerings are better promoted, people will still flock here.
Speaking to Chichester District Council’s overview & scrutiny committee on Tuesday, the BID’s Colin Hicks said: “Our numbers are flat lining at the moment, we lost something like 30 per cent of footfall from April to September, which is our summer peak.
“We’re no longer a holiday town, we’re not really viewed much as a heritage and cultural town by visitors, we’re seen as a convenience town.
“It works very well for its citizens but they can’t fund the city themselves, therefore we must develop more with demand.”
Mr Hicks said nationally, internet shopping had stripped 18 per cent off high streets.
He said Chichester businesses still ‘doing what they’ve always done’ accounted for the rest of the 25 per cent drop since 2008, adding: “Working with the district council and other bodies, the question is how can we get Chichester more demand led, rather than supply driven?”
Cllr Andrew Shaxson called the decrease ‘slightly apocalyptic’ and of the ‘most important’ 30 per cent drop last summer asked: “Is this something peculiar to Chichester or is this something similar communities are experiencing too?”
Mr Hicks said the summer decline had been ‘noticed since the closure of the Chichester Festivities in 2012’, adding the lack of shelter in the city was turning people away.
“But you have to bear in mind the number of empty shops in Chichester is running at about four per cent, the national average is nine per cent...so we have to keep a perspective about this,” he said. “Chichester in comparison to other places is not doing badly, but we’re all struggling.”
Cllr Caroline Neville praised Mr Hicks for ‘truthfully telling us what’s wrong as well as what’s right’ ahead of the Chichester Vision redevelopment plans.
In its first five years the BID has improved safety through Chichester Business Against Crime, distributed more than 100,000 new maps, run the Christmas Lights, regenerated Crane Street and introduced footfall monitors, Mr Hicks said.
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