East Anglia’s retailers buoyant ahead of Christmas shopping period
- Credit: Ian Burt
East Anglia's retailers are reporting encouraging signs of a boost in business, with increased footfall despite a challenging market, a spike in trade from tourists and a clutch of new stores opening.
Both Castle Mall and Intu Chapelfield say they have seen recent positive footfall results, while Jarrold's department store says its newly-expanded food hall is proving a success.
In Lowestoft, the Britten Centre has seen a surge in visitors thanks to a Halloween trail, while King's Lynn's Vancover Quarter Centre is keeping up with last year's record-breaking year for footfall.
And retailers are predicting a promising festive period, with popular Christmas events lined up to attract shoppers from further afield.
CHAPELFIELD - NORWICH
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Owner Intu has sold half of the mall to private equity firm LaSalle Investment Management as the two companies embark on a join venture which will see Intu continue to run the site.
Paul McCarthy, manager of Norwich's Intu Chapelfield shopping centre, said: 'Footfall year-to-date is up and we have got some new brands joining us as well.'
A recent addition is cosmetics company Kiko Milano, as well as a Java pop-up store. Timberland will also be opening in the next couple of weeks, along with fashion accessory brand Skinnydip London.
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When asked about how the high street could compete with online retailers, he said Chapelfield's customers shop both online and in stores, and it was the centre's aim to ensure it offered a 'great experience' to keep them coming back.
The centre has launched its extended hours for November, opening until 7pm every night, except Sundays, and until 9pm on Thursdays. In December its hours will extend until 8pm at night.
CASTLE MALL - NORWICH
Castle Mall shopping centre said new leases and new initiatives had seen footfall to the shopping centre rise, year-on-year, for the past two months, with a 1.9pc increase in visitors during the month of September, equating to more than 817,000 visits.
The centre has high hopes for its October footfall figures and says its car park usage figures are up by 2.3pc year-to-date, and are set to improve over the coming months with Christmas shoppers visiting the centre.
The centre has welcomed Present Time and Christmas Time, while Calendar Club will shortly be joining the retail mix for the festive period, with other tenants looking to open in the near future.
Castle Mall has been redeveloping the floor below the Vue cinema into a restaurant quarter called The Terrace, and it also has more than 1,200 Kastle Kids club members after launching its free activities in April. A recently-opened, free-to-play Ping Pong Parlour has also proved a hit for families.
Robert Bradley, centre manager, said: 'We really do appreciate the patience and loyalty our customers have shown whilst the centre has been evolving, and this is seen in the marked rise in visitor numbers to the centre.
'Customers continue to shop, eat and experience all the offers and services Castle Mall shopping centre has to offer and as we start to welcome exciting new tenants, who will complement the existing offer, we hope the centre and the local community continues to thrive.'
JARROLD'S - NORWICH
Peter Mitchell, managing director of the retail division of Jarrold's, said trade had been 'surprisingly healthy' at the Norwich department store, and there were high hopes that its newly-revamped and expanded food hall would be a popular destination for gift buyers in the festive run-up.
He said: 'We have had a good year so far. We had a surprisingly strong September, helped by an early strong start to the autumn/winter fashion season and that has carried well into October and we are optimistic about the build-up to Christmas.
'We have just launched our new food hall deli and that's proving extremely popular. It was a project we felt was slightly ahead of its time but it has been enormously well received.'
Jonty Young, marketing manager of Norwich Lanes, said while they did not have footfall figures, the area has been very busy - not only for shops, but also for its pubs, restaurants and cafes.
The Whisky Shop in Swan Lane has seen good year-on-year performance over the last 12 months, and manager Chris Rodden said: 'The weak pound has seen an increase in tourists and I'm sure other retailers would say the same thing - that more tourists are shopping in Norwich.'
BRITTEN CENTRE - LOWESTOFT
In Lowestoft, new arrivals to the town's Britten Centre, along with attractions set out by Lowestoft Vision have left manager Dan Poitras hopeful of a successful Christmas period.
Mr Poitras said recent events including a Halloween Trail have helped boost the centre's footfall as of late, as well as new units in Pandora and Shake and Cake.
However, he was disappointed by news that a new B&M store, which had been hoped to open in the old BHS unit in time for Christmas, had been delayed until January.
He said: 'To me, footfall looks to be going up, although difficulties with our counter means I can't put an exact number on it.
'I am hopeful it will be a successful period and that people will come out and do some shopping. Overall, I feel there is a lot of interest in Lowestoft, with lower business rates making the town attractive to potential new businesses.'
While the centre will not have any Christmas pop up stalls, it will have different family activities from December 8 to tie in with Lowestoft Vision's Christmas Spectacular, including a bouncy castle.
VANCOUVER QUARTER CENTRE - KING'S LYNN
Abbie Panks, manager of King's Lynn's Vancouver Quarter Centre, said: 'Our most recent footfall shows that we are online with national trends and are still keeping up with last year's record-breaking year for footfall in the shopping centre.
'With average footfall across the whole country decreasing, although we have seen a small dip over the past two months, it's pleasing that in each month this year we have still comfortably beaten visits in corresponding months in 2015, 2014 and 2013.
'We've welcomed Calendar Club back to New Conduit Street for another Christmas as well as Gifted, and we're anticipating this will be another busy Christmas period.
'It remains clear to us that people aren't just coming to town centres to shop. They are coming for leisure activities as well and we, at Vancouver Quarter, are working hard to ensure we continue to give people a bit more of an experience during the festive period.
'As well as our late night shopping events that have grown in size year-on-year, our popular Christmas grotto will be returning as well as our Bauble Trail that proved a huge hit last year.
'We are also working in partnership once again with West Norfolk Borough Council for the town's Christmas Light Switch On November 26, and we are looking forward to the Christmas Market on December 7, organised by Discover King's Lynn who are also providing free parking after 3pm on late night shopping Thursdays.'
TUNNEL OF LIGHT
City centre businesses are hoping the tunnel of light's return to Norwich in the run-up to Christmas will bring more shoppers and tourists to the city. The 47ft long tunnel attracted attention worldwide when it appeared on Hay Hill last November with its stunning Northern lights display as part of Norwich Business Improvement District's (BID) ambitious Christmas plans.
A video of the tunnel had more than 10 million views and the city centre welcomed an extra 200,000 visitors in November compared to 2015.
The Norwich tunnel of light will be open on Hay Hill, with an added tiara and new light patterns, from Thursday, November 16 until Friday, January 6.
Paul McCarthy, of Intu Chapelfield shopping centre, said: 'Last year footfall was up for us and we trade well off the back of the efforts of what Norwich BID do.'
He added: 'The tunnel is a really lovely free light show and this year it's going to be event better.'
Yesterday Norwich BID began its second five-year term after it was renewed – with a wider scope – when city centre companies voted in favour of its vision to boost the city's economy.GLOOMY NATIONAL PICTURE
A leading retail performance analyst has said it is a gloomier picture nationwide, as footfall is down and forecasts suggest it could be a difficult festive period.
Ipsos Retail Performance said while footfall was down year-on-year for October, our area was performing better than the UK average.
Footfall in Norwich, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, King's Lynn and Thetford was 6.8pc lower than compared to October last year, but better than the UK average decrease of 9.1pc.
Ipsos Retail Performance compiles the Retail Traffic Index (RTI), which is derived from the number of individual shoppers entering over 4,000 non-food retail stores across the UK.
It said the RTI trend was signalling that consumers are increasingly becoming more cautious with their disposable income.