Struggle to keep shoppers in Blackpool

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AS shoppers flood the high street for this year’s big sales a new report has revealed the state of Blackpool’s retail sector

And the main recommendation to come out of it is the resort needs to do more to attract its own residents to shop in the town – as it is losing out to neighbouring Preston as a retail destination.

An estimated £88m of expenditure by Fylde residents is being spent in Preston city centre, and around £40m at Deepdale Retail Park in the city.

Currently, around £316m is spent in Blackpool town centre – a retention level of 33 per cent. This figure has improved since the Houndshill Centre expanded, but remains below 1998 levels of 43 per cent.

The figures, from the Fylde Coast Retail Study Update 2011, show only 34.7 per cent (£83m) of spending on clothes and shoes by residents is in Blackpool town centre.

The resort’s three retail parks, including Blackpool, Clifton and Cherry Tree retail parks, together account for £115m which has grown from £95m in 2005.

Only two per cent, or £20m, of comparison goods spending of Fylde coast residents is spent in Manchester City Centre and the Trafford Centre while many others headed even further afield to shop.

Measures which could attract more spending in Blackpool include new owners Blackstone – the American-based investment firm that already owns stakes in Merlin Entertainment and Hilton – going ahead with a proposed second phase of the Houndshill development, the development of the Winter Gardens for retail use as well as the launch of the £220m new Central Business District around North Station.

The latter will include a new Sainsbury’s supermarket and more than 600 parking spaces. Modernising existing shops is also seen as key.

The report to Blackpool Council’s executive committee says: “The study highlights Blackpool town centre retail is predominantly characterised by retailers at the middle to lower end of the market.

“There is also significant under representation of national multiples with Debenhams as the only department store in the town centre.

“Thus, there is poor consumer choice and competition in Blackpool, resulting in high and unsustainable flows of expenditure to out of centre locations.”

Blackpool town centre and BID (Blackpool Improvement District) manager Eileen Ormand (above) added: “One of the things we’re working on with the strategy group is identifying property big enough to bring nationals in.

“Houndshill has made a difference and the new owners are looking into the next phase of building, while developments at the Central Business District mean we’ll soon have improved car parking.

“These are tough times for high streets and we have to be realistic but I’m optimistic and we’re fortunate our regeneration is well on its way.”

Blackpool has been hit in 2011 with closures including TJ Hughes, Warehouse and Barratts shoes.