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Festive footfall down as town warns of 'challenges' ahead

PUBLISHED: 15:17 08 January 2020 | UPDATED: 15:17 08 January 2020

Great Yarmouth Christmas Lights switch on 2019 was a great success but retail interest was not sustained PHOTO: GYBC/Gary Philo

Great Yarmouth Christmas Lights switch on 2019 was a great success but retail interest was not sustained PHOTO: GYBC/Gary Philo

Archant

A seaside town has recorded a 6pc drop in footfall over the festive period despite a busy start.

Crowds turned out for Great Yarmouth's switch-on but overall the festive trading period has been described as 'fairly flat' PHOTO: Reece HansonCrowds turned out for Great Yarmouth's switch-on but overall the festive trading period has been described as 'fairly flat' PHOTO: Reece Hanson

It means traders in Great Yarmouth hoping for a pre-Christmas surge may not have got the sales they wanted.

Town centre manager Jonathan Newman described trading as "fairly flat" adding that strategies put in place to lure shoppers had not worked as well as expected.

He said the Christmas Fayre and switch-on had been successful with thousands turning out for the family-friendly event - but interest had not been sustained despite weekly Wednesday fireworks aimed at bringing people out of their homes in the evening.

But with online stores getting even better at delivering last minute goods and the ease of armchair shopping the town centre was finding it harder to compete with so much choice.

"The Christmas Fayre and switch on were very successful and had massive crowds. We bought back late night shopping on a Wednesday which we did not have the year before because the focus was on the weekend festive markets," he said.

"The late nights were a slow burn. The first one was very quiet because it came just days after the switch on.

"The second one was busier, and the last was ok but not the big numbers we would hope to get putting on a fireworks display, balloon modelling, and live entertainment."

And although Saturdays were still busy, footfall was still down on last year by about 6pc which was in line with national bench marks.

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In 2018 the town had hosted a series of consecutive late night openings close to Christmas Day in a bid to match online shopping patterns but that had not been particularly successful either probably because sellers were getting better at delivering later.

It was possible, he said, for Christmas 2020 the focus would be on Saturdays.

Meanwhile, the footfall figure was possibly misleading.

He said the counting gadget was trained on numbers of people passing WH Smith in King Street which was busier when M&S was nearby.

A number of counters placed at different locations giving an average figure would probably be more accurate, he added.

At Market Gates, arguably the town's new 'centre', shops had yet to handover their final figures.

Centre manager Nick Spencer said it was still too early to tell but that overall it felt "quite buoyant."

Mr Newman stressed that with 110 national brands and 220 independent traders in Yarmouth there was still plenty of reasons to visit the town centre.

He added the outlook remained uncertain with some big names vulnerable.

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