Footfall in Lancaster fell year on year in 2017, but the city enjoyed an economic boost over the Christmas period, according to new figures.
Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID) recorded an average three per cent drop in footfall in 2017 compared to 2016.
But the trading environment improved throughout the year, and the night-time economy also improved in December compared to the year before.
The number of empty units in the city also fell by 13.7 per cent in 2017, the figures show.
The BID’s aim is to improve and promote the city through marketing and events and it collects a levy from businesses within the BID area to help achieve this. Traders in Lancaster described a similar experience in 2017 to the year before.
Trading was “similar to last year” said butcher Graham Alston, from Gregory Williams Ltd in James Street, while Peter Corke from the Market Cobbler said trade was “not quite as busy as last year”.
John Glassock, from John’s Picture Place in Sir Simon’s Arcade, said business rate relief in 2017 had helped, but he was worried about the effect the closure of Greyhound Bridge for 18 months would have on his business.
One trader, who did not wish to be named said “we’re doing well”, while another said that the opening of Primark had had a negative effect on independent clothes shops.
Rachael Wilkinson, BID manager, said: “Footfall across the UK is on a downwards trend, with 2017 showing a national average reduction of 1.1 per cent.
“Lancaster BID effectively encouraged footfall into the city centre in 2017 through a strong annual events and marketing programme.
“Although showing a three per cent decrease in annual footfall, Lancaster’s footfall has improved in each quarter of 2017.
Footfall in the city centre started as a five per cent drop in the first quarter, improving to a 1.9 per cent drop in the final quarter of the year.”
Ms Wilkinson added: “Confidence in Lancaster was also demonstrated by the number of new businesses which opened in the city centre in 2017. Lancaster BID measures vacancy rates on a quarterly basis, which have shown that Lancaster city centre is performing better than the north west average.
“In particular, the last six months have shown a 13.7 per cent reduction in the number of vacant units in the city centre. There are also a number of premises currently undergoing refurbishment, which we look forward to welcoming in 2018.”
She said that one of Lancaster BIDs objectives is to monitor and help improve the footfall and trading environment in the Lancaster BID zone.
This programme saw Lancaster BID support key events such as the Lancaster Music Festival, Chinese New Year and Lancaster Jazz Festival, which brought thousands of additional people into the city centre.
It also produced a number of successful events, including Light Up Lancaster, Lancaster Christmas Lights Switch On and Dino-Day.
Ms Wilkinson said that Dino-Day was a particular highlight in the annual calendar, and saw a big increase in footfall, as well as economic benefit, with some businesses reporting that their sales had doubled on the day of the June event.
“The improved footfall was especially shown over Christmas when Lancaster BID launched a ‘Winter in The City’ campaign which included producing or supporting events every weekend in the city centre, alongside a substantial marketing campaign to encourage people to shop locally,” she added.
In the four weeks leading up to Christmas, footfall in the city centre was up compared to the previous year, with the week before Christmas being up a substantial 14.2 per cent. The night-time economy also benefitted throughout December with a 13.7 per cent uplift in night-time footfall impressions compared to 2016. In December, Lancaster also significantly out-performed north west and UK footfall indicators.