Shropshire Star comment: Shrewsbury is showing the way
The news on the street has not been encouraging of late – the High Street, that is, where traders are facing challenges from all directions, not least online shopping.
But the tidings are not all bad all over. Shrewsbury turns out to be a shining beacon of hope that traditional retail centres are not on a one-way street to decline.
While national footfall figures have fallen for the 10th straight year, in Shrewsbury town centre they went up last year, with the Christmas period showing an even more positive picture.
This is an excellent performance, especially as it has come against a background of disruption in the town centre caused by long-running work to improve the environment.
It is also a relief, because Shropshire Council tax payers have a real stake in the success of Shrewsbury as a shopping hub as a result of the council’s purchase last year of three Shrewsbury shopping centres at a cost of about £51 million.
The local footfall figures have come from Shrewsbury Business Improvement District and the feedback has underlined some of the reasons why Shrewsbury is getting things right, while other town and city centres elsewhere are finding things a struggle.
Importantly, there is loyalty and goodwill on the part of customers who want to support Shrewsbury by shopping locally. That customer loyalty and goodwill has come because of the service Shrewsbury traders give and the range of shops – including many independents – that they offer.
Special events and attractions add another dimension to the experience. A day shopping in Shrewsbury has much else to stimulate the senses.
Shrewsbury is making the best of what it has, and with its drive to continue to develop the town centre into what is now called a “destination” there is every hope that these impressive footfall figures are not a flash in the pan, but can be built on to maintain and increase the vitality of the town centre.
It’s enough to make other towns envious, and Shrewsbury does enjoy some built-in advantages, such as its historic buildings and architectural gems, the river, museums and so on.
Nevertheless the town can be proud that hard work, collective effort and vision seem to be reaping their due reward.