The number of shoppers hitting Preston’s high street ahead of Christmas has fallen 20 per cent, new figures have shown.
The year-on-year footfall, compiled by the city’s Business Improvement District (BID), showed the drop in the number of people on key shopping streets in the city centre.
But, one of the city’s biggest shopping centres, St George’s Centre, has reported a rise of four per cent in people using its car park on Sundays after it made them free.
BID operations manager Richard Douglas said th
He said: “This suggests that on one of the busiest shopping days of the year shoppers are going to towns and shopping centres where parking is free, if we are to reverse this trend we need to be able to compete on a level playing field.
“As a city we must do everything possible to retain business in the centre and with the likes of the Trafford Centre advertising 11,500 free car parking spaces as one of its key messages Preston Council need to reconsider its policies.
“The BID wants to see free car parking all weekend, every weekend and a trial of significant length is well over due.”
The St George’s Centre reported a slow start to its offer of free parking on Wednesday and Thursday late night shopping nights with 48 and 49 people using the car park respectively.
This increased to 207 and 253 people in the week commencing December 10, with the first free Sunday attracting 821 vehicles parking for free with 722 on the second free Sunday.
Manager Andrew Stringer has called for the city to “trade as one entity in 2013.”
He said: “There needs to be a coherent free parking and late night shopping offer; choosing to shop somewhere isn’t solely judged on the free parking offer.
“Some shops have opted in to late night shopping while others choose to close at the normal time and as a Shopping Centre this is difficult to manage.
“But, many of our retailers take a quarter of sales during the festive season and free parking may have given more people an incentive to shop in Preston.”