FESTIVE shoppers and bargain hunters flocked to the indoor malls in Blackburn and Burnley this Christmas and New Year but the more rain and windswept town centres elsewhere in East Lancashire struggled in the bad weather.
While no-one was reporting a disaster, traders outside the big two retail centres reported a “challenging” end to 2012.
The final surge as cash-strapped residents took advantage of cut-price offers to fill Christmas stockings and pick-up January sales bargains meant the turn of the year propped up a difficult 12 months for many traders.
Blackburn’s Mall and Market benefited most from the seasonal surge offering a warm, covered escape from the wind for shoppers.
Burnley’s Charter Walk say a slight dip in footfall but still saw the final Christmas push boosting sales.
Accrington Chamber of Trade described the festive sales as “challenging but not disastrous”.
Rawtenstall also reported mixed fortunes but a busier than expected final few days before December 25. Clitheroe’s old-fashioned market town shopping appeal, so attractive in summer, became a disadvantage in the wind and rain while Nelson was described as “dead” for much of the period.
Barnoldswick and Colne did better, offering a safe refuge for shoppers who could not face the scrum in big town centres or the trip to the Trafford Centre, Everyone agreed that the recession, worries about money and the future contributed to a poor year for retailers with the final few weeks providing just enough of a boost to raise hopes for better things in 2013.
In our feature panels, we get reaction from all the area’s main shopping centres to the festive footfall.
Chris Gribben, manager of Burnley’s Charter Walk shopping centre, said that trade had been encouraging through to Christmas and into the New Year.
He said: “I’ve been talking to some of our new retailers who have relocated here, and they say they have been very successful. Next has said that they have hit their targets and more, which is good news and one of two of the temporary lettings have pleased as well.
“It has been a difficult year but the festive period has been its usual successful self. You can always say it could have been a bit better but it’s certainly not been doom and gloom here.”
Nick Emery, of Nelson Town Centre Partnership, said: “The town has been dead – I was out on New Year’s Eve and there was no-one about. But when I went into Burnley it was absolutely heaving. It’s the same old story I’m afraid.”
Trade is reported to have been quite steady in Colne, with new arrivals like Timeless Toys and About Coffee making in-roads, and a packed events programme has kept things ticking over in Barnoldswick.
Bosses at Boundary Mill claimed they were ‘unable to give that kind of information out’ but shoppers said that they were impressed by the range on offer at the outlet centre.
A spokesman for Clitheroe Chamber of Trade said:”Footfall was slightly down this Christmas and New Year. We think that was really down to the appalling weather.
“Clearly the recession has played a part. With times tight, people have been spending less and often spending on credit cards which has had an effect.
“Clitheroe does not have a covered shopping area such as the Mall or the Arndale so we are very dependent on the weather and shoppers have clearly not wanted to go out and about in the wind and rain.
“So it’s not been a great Christmas and New with spending and footfall down a little on last year.”
David Gould, president of Rawtenstall Chamber of Trade, said he had been receiving mixed reports about the New Year trade in Rossendale.
Mr Gould, who runs opticians practices in Rawtenstall’s Bank Street and in Deardengate, Haslingden, said: “My shop in Haslingden has been surprisingly busy.
“It’s normally quiet at this time of year but I’ve had a lot of customers from people who used to live in the Valley and are back here to visit family over Christmas.
“It’s noticeably quieter in Bank Street and people are missing out on some great bargains by going to the out-of-town stores.”
Past-president of Hyndburn Chamber of Trade Michael Whewell who runs as timber merchants and tool shop in Bridge Street, Accrington said:”It has been a very challenging festive period for local shops and traders.
“Those I have spoken to said that spending has been not as good this Christmas and New Year as last year.
“People have been out and about but they have been careful about what they spend. Hyndburn and Accrington have been busy but perhaps not as busy as in recent years.
“The general verdict is that it’s been a challenging end of 2012 and start to 2103, but not disastrous.”
Blackburn and Darwen
Mall General manager Loraine Jones said: “We have enjoyed a fantastic festive period with footfall up on last year’s record numbers for three consecutive weeks to the end of the year.
“Our busiest overall week was the week commencing 17th December, which saw a huge increase of over eight per cent.
“Christmas Eve saw whopping 19 per cent more shoppers than last year. Boxing Day saw a very impressive nine per cent increase in footfall.”
Blackburn Market Manager Keith Holden said:“The market certainly benefited from the festive shopping period, with many of our stall holders reporting an increase on previous years.”