Shops are finding it increasingly tough to keep their tills ringing and the region’s shopping centres and high streets are trying new ways of attracting customers. Karen Dent reports.
IN A summer dominated by the Jubilee and latterly the Olympics – two national events that retailers hoped would have a positive effect on sales – the latest official figures make grim reading.
Office for National Statistics (ONS) data released last week showed that sales did grow in July by 0.3%, but the rate was slower than the 0.8% growth in June, despite the build up to the London 2012 Games.
British Retail Consortium director general Stephen Robertson said: “July was no golden month for retailers despite the build-up to the Olympics. The sale of non-food goods held-up better than food but both measures were weaker than in June.
“July’s brightest spot was electrical products, thanks to a mild Olympic effect, but overall the run-up to the Games did not inspire a boost to food and drink, souvenirs or luxury goods bought by tourists.
“We’ll need to see August’s figures for the full picture. But with disposable incomes still under pressure and with inflation sneaking back up, underlying conditions remain challenging for the sector.”
Retail is struggling as worried consumers continue to keep a tight hold on the purse strings amid ongoing concerns about keeping their jobs during the longest recession for decades.
Now shops and shopping centre managers are exploring different ways to attract more people, and hopefully persuade them to spend more money.
Newcastle is two years into an initiative organised by business improvement district operator NE1, which includes a host of special events and the popular screenings of movies and live events such as Wimbledon and the Olympics on a giant screen beside Grey’s Monument.
NE1 commercial manager Stephen Patterson believes adding something extra to the shopping experience plays a vital role in bringing more people into the city centre. “In 2010, we launched Alive After Five, extending opening hours and with free parking after 5pm. We’ve complemented it with things like Newcastle Restaurant Week and Newcastle Fashion Week,” he said.
“It’s about providing something unique. I think it’s very important, particularly with regard to providing an improved experience, so it’s not just the shops.”