Retailers in Lancaster had a “great year” in 2018, while 2019 “looks promising” according to Lancaster Business Improvement District (BID).
Although footfall figures for the whole of 2018 in Lancaster showed a drop of 1.9 per cent year on year, this was set against a national average drop of 2.5 per cent, and an improvement for the city after a three per cent downturn in 2017.
Lancaster BID manager Rachael Wilkinson said that footfall in Lancaster is defying national trends, although 2019 would bring concern for some businesses with the unknown impact of Brexit, some key chain stores going into administration and the rise in online sales.
The BID monitors footfall impressions from two cameras in Penny Street and Church Street, which show how many times an individual person walks past.
The monitors showed that over the festive period, the Saturday before Christmas showed a 1.3 per cent drop, while Christmas eve showed a 40.7 per cent increase, Boxing Day showed a seven per cent drop, and New Years Day a 22 per cent increase.
Whether this converts to actual spending in the shops remains to be seen.
Rachael said: “Part of the reason for these improvements in footfall impressions is the increase in evening and night time footfall.
“In 2018, evening (6pm-9pm) and night time (9pm – 7am) footfall showed an impressive 0.7 per cent annual increase, showing the positive growth in this sector of business in Lancaster.”
She added that the annual Christmas lights switch on event, organised by the BID, also saw a rise in footfall, with some businesses reporting being “up 10 per cent on sales and eight per cent on footfall”.
She added: “We welcomed lots of new businesses to the city centre in 2018 including Kaspas, Dam Good Coffee, Defying Dementia, Pouts & Crowns, The Fragrance Shop, The Herbarium, Antalya Barbers, Patisserie Valerie, Bowtique, Journey South, Indian Deli, Brew, Ministry of Vapes and ALEX to name a few.
“New Street is also full for the first time in a number of years and both shopping centres welcomed new tenants in 2018, showing the continued confidence in Lancaster city centre, as a place to operate a business.”
Footfall in the first week of 2019 also showed signs of improvement on the previous year, which the BID said is “very rare”.
The figure is compared to the first week in January 2018, which was down 8.7 per cent on 2017, which in turn was down 18.1 per cent.
Rachael added: “2018 was a great year for Lancaster. The re-opening of Greyhound Bridge, the inaugural Lancaster Festa Italia and Lancaster’s first ever real ice rink were all highlights. 2019 will undoubtedly be a concern for some businesses, with the unknown impact of Brexit, some key chain stores going into administration and the rise in online sales. But 2019 in Lancaster looks promising. In the first week of the year, footfall impressions have already shown a +12% increase. With the development of the Canal Quarter scheme, Lancaster University’s student growth plans and key empty retail units coming back into use, Lancaster looks set to have a prosperous 2019.”