Despite British Retail Consortium reporting 2019 to be the worst year on record for the retail sector, footfall in Stockport has risen by 21.45% over the important 8 week Christmas and New Year trading period from 11th November to 5th January.
In 2018 Stockport town centre attracted 1,681,000 visitors compared to 2,041,000 over the same period in 2019.
Last year, retail intelligence experts Springboard, forecast that overall UK footfall would decline by -1.5% in the four weeks leading up to Christmas whereas in Stockport actual footfall rose from 1,063,000 to 1,270,000 an increase of 19.5%.
Since launching in April 2017, Totally Stockport, the team behind Stockport’s Business Improvement District have been working hard to change people’s perceptions and attract new visitors into the town centre by hosting new and exciting family-orientated events throughout the calendar year.
The BIG Day Out, Dinosaur Day, Christmas events and Stockport’s Giant Leap Frog Art Trail have resulted in a huge swell in visitors. Throughout the summer, weekly footfall peaked at 337,000 delivering an additional £1,290,000 into the town centre’s weekly economy.
Stockport’s BID Manager Paul Taylor is not surprised that Stockport is showing such a positive growth in footfall:
“Stockport’s Business Improvement District’s main objectives since we launched in 2017 has been to improve the overall customer and visitor experience in the town centre.
“By putting on great events and supporting our BID levy payers, we have been actively working to attract more people into Stockport on a more regular basis.
“This summer’s Stockport Giant Leap Frog art trail was a fantastic example of our innovative approach and attracted huge numbers, many of whom were families who visited for the first time.
“We have changed people’s perceptions and demonstrated Stockport’s strength in creating a new audience for the many businesses who have been attracted by the opportunities that Stockport’s longer-term plan of investment and regeneration has provided.”
In November 2018, free WiFi was installed across the town centre enhancing the visitor experience for over 18,000 users. But, perhaps most importantly, the system also records valuable, anonymous data that provides intelligence used to measure visitor numbers and ensuring town centre based activities and events are what people want, attracting new and returning visitors while continuing to showcase the positive changes that are taking place across Stockport.
Steve Pilling, who opened the Produce Hall in the Market Place ‘with a bang’ earlier in 2019, saw traction gather very quickly which he says is good news and indicative of the fact that people like what has been created and is optimistic for the future:
“Pre-Christmas, post Black Friday and when the Manchester Markets finished business picked up and next year we will be on the radar.
“When the good weather is here the area is like Orange Square Madrid! Stockport has an improving town centre and we had visitors who told us they normally go elsewhere but changed their plans to visit us.”
Another barometer in the growth in town centre footfall has come from one of Merseyway’s longer-established retailers, McDonalds.
Store manager Matt Wood said that 2019 was much more positive than previous years:
“The new Merseyway Management team and the BID team at Totally Stockport have really helped drive footfall via events / family entertainment initiatives throughout the year.
“The first half of the year was challenging and saw the store struggle for incremental sales. From July, things have been much more positive with Footfall and Sales increasing which was undoubtably driven by the Frogs.
“Added to this, the store now offers “McDelivery” (food delivery provide by Uber) and this has driven a significant uplift in sales during the last six months.”
Last year, the store worked collaboratively with local “Leisure” businesses (Players Entrance / Go karts / Virtual Reality) and now offer all a Party delivery service and has fully participated in supporting the Merseyway family initiatives.
When asked whether McDonalds has enjoyed a good Christmas trading period, Matt said November and December were very positive in terms of footfall:
“Merseyway and the BID have done a fantastic job of offering a variety of entertainment throughout the weekends / holiday period. The Christmas Light switch-on was a success and worked much better on a Saturday. Guest count is improving and have been positive since June. We saw real peaks in August and December as you would expect. McDelivery is also providing a significant increase in sales and guest count. We have been encouraged over the last six months by the proactive approach from Merseyway and the BID. The Merseyway offering of entertainment every weekend has helped increase family footfall. As mentioned already, the Frogs / Christmas Light switch on and numerous other events have been a great success. If these initiatives continue this can only be a good thing for the Town.
“Concerns remain regarding the number of empty units and filling these continues to be a huge opportunity for the Town to improve further.”
Christmas 2019 free events included an Ice Sculpture Trail and the Polar Express land train that drew families into the town centre on Sunday 8th and Sunday 15th December.
The Light cinema at Redrock have also enjoyed a second successful year and have welcomed over one million visitors since 2017 seeing exciting year on year growth. On the back of this, the Light has added two extra screens, revamped the foyer and extended bar spaces to include an upstairs bar, a stylish outside garden bar for drinks and casual dining as introduced a new menu.
Tom Dean, Manager at the Light commented:
“The refurbishment has enabled us to improve the overall customer experience which has been a huge highlight and the addition of new event spaces is an exciting development. It has provided us with the opportunity to extend our private hire offer to both offer customers and business alike providing a truly unique environment and dedicated service for any occasion from meetings and corporate events to drinks receptions and celebrations. Our kids party packages are also proving to be extremely popular.
“Our Christmas trading has been phenomenal with Star Wars, Jumanji and Little Women performing strongly and that momentum continues in to 2020 with the release of 1917, Bad Boys and Bombshell. Our events programme also continues to go from strength to strength with Kinky Boots the Musical and the Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show scheduled for the early part of this year. Due to popular demand, we are also increasing the number of baby friendly screenings.
“It is really positive that our admissions are continuing to see growth; we are delighted to be at the heart of Stockport’s regeneration and excited that we are able to add trade into the town centre. Redrock has proved to be a massive success which is a testament to the ambition and belief from Stockport Council.”
When asked about the future Tom added:
“Stockport Council has exciting plans for the next five years and we are delighted to be part of this and can only see business improving from here. We are also planning some further changes to keep The Light moving forward.”