VISITOR numbers to Blackpool’s flagship shopping centre have risen – despite the gloomy economic nationwide picture.
In October, 1,148,755 went through the doors of the Houndshill Shopping Centre, compared with 1,124,674 for the same month in 2010 – an increase of 2.1 per cent.
Houndshill bosses say the success of the centre, which has more than 70 retail outlets under one roof, is down to its £36m-refurbishment programme which has helped attract shoppers from as far away as Lancaster, Garstang and Preston.
Centre manager John Holt said the season had been a real success, despite the recession.
He added: “The figures are great but we mustn’t rest on our laurels. Money is tight for everyone so we have to work extra hard to deliver value and a memorable shopping experience.”
The re-opening of the Promenade and the culmination of several major regeneration projects has made Blackpool an even more popular retail and entertainment destination, according to the retail leader.
A raft of new stores have also helped increase visitor numbers to the centre.
Virgin Media, Pandora, Claire’s Accessories, Scent World, Eurozone and Cafe Fraiche were all opened during the 2011 season.
Now, the Disney store on Victoria Street is set to move inside the centre to further boost its occupancy rate.
And the flagship Debenhams store in the Houndshill was recently named by the department store chain as one of its most successful in the country.
Manager Graham Dickinson said: “The signs are really, really encouraging – especially since the reopening of the Promenade and the Tower.
“The store is performing very well and we’ve seen a massive influx of visitors which has continued all the way through.
“The average customer spend for us remains around the same –but we’ve had a lot more customers. And we’ve noticed a much more positive attitude from those customers.
“Like-for-like growth is up and that’s excellent in the current economic climate.
“It’s actually been our best season for the past three years and we’ve now taken on more temporary staff for Christmas.
“Hopefully it will carry on – it was this time last year that the Promenade closed.”
Mr Dickinson has put plans in place to take on more staff than ever before for the busy festive period.
He added: “We’re now hoping to have a bumper Christmas.”
The Houndshill is looking to boost Christmas trade for its tenants and has agreed to allow customers to park for free on Thursdays from November 24 from 5pm to 9.30pm, and the same times every night from December 19 to 23.
The Fylde coast Retail Study 2011 says there are now a number of opportunities for the town centre to improve.
The report stated: “The opportunities presented by the Houndshill phase II extension, the Central Station site, and the Winter Gardens redevelopment, all present opportunities to enhance the comparison goods offer. Talbot Gateway (Central Business District) also presents an opportunity.”
BLACKPOOL’S SEASON IN THE SPOTLIGHT