Markets save high street
For a number of years we have been aware of the decline in high street shopping with consumers preferring the out of town shopping malls. With free parking, food markets and free from constraints of weather these locations are blamed for attracting people away from town and city centres. However these malls are also boring containing the same chain stores so that it is often difficult to identify whether you are in Southampton or Gateshead.
So I was interested to read about Blackburn which has just won the High Street of the Year title. The local council has invested 66 million to revitalise their declining town centre. Beginning in 2011 with a revamp of an old shopping centre they achieved a 20% increase in shoppers in the first year.
Now 253, 000 people a week visit the town shopping are encouraged by independent traders beside the usual big name brands. There is no longer a problem re letting premises when one becomes empty. Also among the innovations are free events and festivals and a 120 stall market which draws people in. This last point is particularly close to my heart being a member of the NMFT.
By the council, traders and residents working together over the last 15 years there has been a massive turn around in the perception of the town as a place to spend the day even though its not a tourist destination. Hopefully other councils will take note of Blackburn’s achievement and follow suit.