Thank you for getting out and supporting your town.
That was the message to Gazette readers after a busy festive period, buoyed by the offer of heavily discounted parking.
In the run-up to Christmas, The Gazette joined forces with town centre traders to launch the My Blackpool campaign and remind residents just how much the resort has to offer.
Meanwhile, Blackpool Council offered cut-price parking in three town centre car parks to encourage more people to ditch online shopping in favour of supporting their local shops – with thousands of people taking advantage.
Plans are already being drawn up to bring back the scheme again this year.
Now, figures show footfall in the town centre was up 28 per cent in December compared to the same period in 2017.
Town crier Barry McQueen, who rang the bell to open the campaign, said the impact on the town centre had been “marvellous”.
“The Houndshill shopping centre and around town seemed very busy,” he added.
“It was very well received, I think a lot of people got behind the campaign. People were coming up to me to say they saw me on the front of The Gazette.
“One person said it was about time we supported the local shops and businesses.
“I’m glad the people of Blackpool came out in force.”
Three car parks offered up to three hours parking for £1 –with more than 26,000 of the cheaper tickets sold.
The move was aimed at encouraging shoppers not to avoid the town centre during a second festive period disrupted by roadworks.
The council had offered free parking in 2017 for the same reason but traders complained town centre workers had taken advantage of the offer rather than shoppers.
Robert Scott, who runs Cafe Continental on Topping Street, said the £1 parking scheme had been a “fantastic idea.”
He added: “Some of our customers were over the moon that it was just was just a pound to park up. I’d love to see more of it.”
Tracey Clarke, manager of Toyland on Birley Street, believes the council should run the discounted parking offers throughout the year.
She said: “I think it should be slightly earlier than December as we have found a lot more people are doing their Christmas shopping in November.
“Also when it is out of season, like January and February, the cheap parking will entice people into the resort.”
Tracey said they advertised the £1 parking offer to their customers over Facebook.
She added: “It was the second Christmas with roadworks in the town so we knew sales would be down – so wanted to promote the offer.
“It worked really well and surprisingly due to the train strikes more people were coming by car to Blackpool.
“I think the council advertised it really well.”
It comes after a meeting of the full council heard there were already plans to run a similar scheme again this year due to its success.
Deputy leader Gillian Campbell told the meeting 26,697 of the £1 parking tickets had been sold.
She said: “The Christmas campaign has been extremely well received. It was so well used that it is now our intention to run a similar scheme next December.
“The most popular days were Saturdays and Sundays, and well over half of businesses reported improved performances in December.”
Speaking after the meeting she added: “We are delighted at the high level of take up of this offer which encouraged local residents and out-of-town visitors to shop in Blackpool and enjoy the rich entertainment staged in the town.
“We are committed to supporting Blackpool businesses and this joint campaign funded and supported by Blackpool Council, Town Centre BID and Blackpool Transport proved to be an attractive incentive to encourage people to spend their time in our shops and leisure venues.
It was the second consecutive year where Blackpool town centre had roadworks during the busy Christmas shopping period.
As well as the £1 parking offer, cheap bus and tram tickets were also offered to tempt shoppers onto public transport as a means of getting into town while roadworks are in place.
However, town hall chiefs ditched the free parking offer which was offered in 2017 as some traders said too much of the free parking got taken up by town centre workers instead of shoppers.
The council at the launch of the £1 offer said: “The Christmas parking offer is designed to attract shoppers into the town centre.
“When we have run free parking in the past we found spaces filled very quickly with people leaving their cars for the whole day.
“We want to ensure that there are enough spaces for shoppers who are coming into town to spend money with local businesses, which is why a nominal charge for three hours has been decided.”
Blackpool’s Central Car Park was almost full in the morning of the first day of the free parking offer which was requested by traders because of fears shoppers would abandon the resort because of the Talbot Road roadworks.
The council has usually joined forces with Blackpool BID (business improvement district) to offer discounted parking.
It was introduced in response to fears that extensive town centre roadworks could go some way to deter people from doing their Christmas shopping in the town, sending them online or elsewhere.
Drivers were able to park for up to three hours on Central, East Topping Street and West Street car parks for £1 during December.
SHOPPER NUMBERS ARE ON THE RISE
Figures revealed at the meeting also showed a 15 per cent increase in sales of the Resort Pass which gives people discounted access to various attractions through the purchase of a single ticket.
There were sales of 17,102 resort passes in 2018, up from 14,820 in 2017.