Town centre ‘on the way up’ says boss


- Credit: Archant

Weston’s town centre manager has defended its progress in recovering from the recession after a retail expert warned stagnant high streets face a post-Christmas ‘blood-bath’.

In December 2011, retail consultant Mary Portas outlined her vision for improving the nation’s high streets. This week, she has criticised the lack of change three years on.

Her sentiments have been echoed by other retail experts, with one stating it was ‘already too late’ for stores which had failed to move with the times.

However, Weston town centre manager Steve Townsend says the town was ‘on its way up’ and that planned additions, including the Dolphin Square and Winter Gardens redevelopments, will also help bring in more trade.

Mr Townsend said: “We are doing quite well with the proposed developments at the Winter Gardens and so on. Obviously the High Street is changing and we will see a lot more independence in town centres.

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“There was no revolution in the box from the Portas report; it mentioned having more markets in the High Street and lowering business rates – we knew that anyway.

“Everywhere is different but I think Weston is on its way up. Dolphin Square will be very helpful and fingers crossed that will be coming forward in the new year.”

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Veteran retail expert Dan Wagner had previously warned retailers were ‘fighting for their survival’ and predicted a tough 2015 for many.

He said: “Retailers did not factor in the widespread and rapid adoption of mobile devices; consumers are driving this change and retailers need to review and innovate based on consumer behaviour – but the reality is they have not done so fast enough.

“Retailers are fighting for their own survival and I am astonished that they have failed to adapt their strategy to respond to this seismic shift which has the potential to decimate their businesses.

“In my view, changes in business rates alone are not going to be enough to halt the tide in the demise of those retailers that have failed to evolve. The post-Christmas period will be a bigger blood-bath than last year, and for some retailers, it is already too late.”

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