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Colchester enjoys strong Christmas shopping sales figures

Peter Scopes, centre manger for Red Lion Yard and Lion Walk.

Peter Scopes, centre manger for Red Lion Yard and Lion Walk.

Retailers in Colchester are celebrating after a bumper Christmas period followed by a strong week of sales shopping.

Dave Robertson, centre manager for Culver Square. Dave Robertson, centre manager for Culver Square.

More than 550,000 people walked through Lion Walk and Red Lion Yard Shopping Centre in the week ending in Christmas Day, while 510,000 passed through the following week – a far smaller post-Christmas dip than expected.

Although the centre did not have an official counter last year, centre manager Peter Scopes said anecdotally the figure had strengthened.

In the week ending December 13 the centre saw 425,000 people.

The nearby Culver Square Shopping Centre also revealed it had seen footfall rise by 16.6% this Christmas compared to last, with sales growing on average by 10% across its stores.

Mr Scopes said: “Footfall carried on climbing all the way through and up to Christmas, and we had a very strong week between Christmas and New Year. We found, unexpectedly, the beginning of last week was busy too, the dip from Christmas has been minimal.

“It was surprising, but great, really positive. I don’t know a retailer who has struggled.

“It was always going to be an unknown quantity with the rise in prominence of Black Friday, but where retailers are offering genuine value for money through the sales people are taking advantage of that. Maybe people are thinking ‘I didn’t quite get what I was looking for for Christmas but I know where I saw it’.

“It really shows people are using the town centre, are loyal to the shops, and we are really pleased Colchester is still such a popular destination. The shops must be getting it right because people would not come back, the figures speak for themselves.”

Two shops, Paperchase and Costa, also saw within last month their biggest single trading days since opening in Culver Square – a move which David Robertson, centre manager, backed up the claim shoppers were looking for an experience as well as gifts.

“People want to come out, socialise, meet friends, and that is where I think Colchester is really good. There is street food, or places to sit and eat, independents and big brands doing coffee, that is what is important,” Mr Robertson said.

“A number of other stores are trading in the top three, if not top, of their chain regionally.

“Performance was really encouraging, showing a confidence coming back into the market. People want an experience, rather than just sitting on the sofa to do their Christmas shopping.

“With events too it is very much about the family entertainment, community feel, that you can’t get online.

“It shows Colchester has a lot to offer and is competing against other towns.”

Both shopping centre managers attributed in part the rise to efforts by the Town Team to promote Colchester generally and by holding through Colchester Presents a number of events to draw people in and improve the shopping experience.

Michelle Reynolds, chairman of the Colchester Retail/Business Association, said smaller stores had seen a mixed picture with a lot footfall but without many sales until the last minute.

“On the whole a lot of shops had quite a buoyant Christmas,” she said.

“It is a growing trend now with online shopping to see people looking around both on the web and in stores and deciding what they want but not buying until late on.”

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