Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

High Street Low Is the New Challenge

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

High Street Low Is the New Challenge

Article excerpt

A DARK cloud is hanging over high streets and shopping centres as the prospect of more shop closures looms. SANDY McKENZIE looks at the Teesside situation.

WELL-KNOWN names from the country's high streets and shopping centres are in danger of disappearing and changing the face of shopping.

Low consumer confidence, less spending power available to shoppers and issues such as internet shopping is making life tough for retailers.

Middlesbrough town centre - one of the biggest in the North-east - has seen a significant dip this year in shoppers.

Moves are being made to ensure it and other Teesside shopping areas are in the best possible condition to compete in a tough trading environment.

Significant sums have already been invested in improving town centres in places such as Thornaby.

There are plans for major investment in Billingham town centre and for pounds 20m to be spent on Stockton High Street.

Redcar and Cleveland Council has introduced virtual shop fronts to lessen the impact of empty shop premises. Its efforts to attract new businesses to Redcar town centre saw clothing and homeware retailer Store Twenty One opened up earlier this year in the former McDonald's premises.

Middlesbrough town centre manager Alan Weston said footfall by shoppers had been difficult this year.

"That is not surprising in the current climate. Fewer people are visiting the centres but people are telling us that those who are coming are spending more."

Mr Weston said he believed the bottom had been reached.

"We expect things to improve.

The high street is changing. There are new businesses and opportunities.

The new Barclays development on the corner of The Mall is an investment in the town centre and small retailers are opening in parts of the town centre," he said.

Work is ongoing to create a Business Improvement District in the town centre to improve the customer experience, build town centre loyalty, provide marketing, promotion and events and help reduce business costs.

Mr Weston said businesses in the area had lots of ideas they would like to see implemented. …

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