22 January 2020
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.”