Strong festive trading sparks recovery hope

Region's shopping hotspots enjoy high footfall and spend over Christmas

Phil Steele, general manager of intu Eldon Square
Phil Steele, general manager of intu Eldon Square

The North East’s shopping hotspots have reported strong trading over the festive period, bolstering hopes of an upturn in the region’s retail economy.

At Newcastle’s intu Eldon Square, overall spend was similar to last year, and, although December footfall was marginally down, the centre still attracted 3.6m people, one of the highest figures in the UK. During the sale period, footfall was up 12% on 2012, while, on Boxing Day, Next saw twice as many people visit its store during the first three hours of opening, compared to last year.

General manager of intu Eldon Square Phil Steele said: “There is no denying that these are still difficult times for retailers. People have less disposable income and cuts in the public sector in the North East have had a big impact.

“Fashion retailers have been the hardest hit, but jewellery sales have continued to be strong. The mid market has struggled, but high-end and low-end retailers have continued to do well.”

He added that intu Eldon Square had been “bursting at the seams” with shoppers taking advantage of later opening times, along with free parking after 5pm. Trade had also been boosted by a number of festive activities for children and families in the centre, competitions, decorations and carol singing.

“January 2014 finds the retail sector still facing challenges, but there are definitely signs of improvement, and healthy interest in retail space from national retailers,” he added.

Also benefitting from a huge investment in activities and decorations – including a 10m tree featuring over 101,000 LED lights – was intu Metrocentre, Gateshead, which has over 330 shops.

There, strong footfall and spend was recorded from November 29 through to December 23, the busiest day the centre has had for two years.

General manager, Gavin Prior, said: “For the first time, we have advertised our Boxing Day sales on television, which helped increase awareness of one of the biggest sales in Europe.

“The announcement in November that there are indications that we are slowly recovering from the recession and employment is rising has helped restore consumer confidence, which is evident with our shoppers, who seem to be planning their visits with military precision.”

At Sanderson Arcade in Morpeth, meanwhile, footfall over the last three weeks of December was up 15% compared to 2012.

Manager Medi Parry, said: “We are still gathering information about Christmas trade but the early indications are that it has been a much stronger Christmas period than last year, which certainly gives us cause for optimism as we go into 2014.”

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