THE head of Preston’s largest shopping centre is looking to attract more independent businesses to the city.
Plans are being drawn up by St George’s Shopping Centre to create a dedicated “Independent Avenue” within the centre accessed at its Lune Street entrance.
Andrew Stringer believes the independent sector is crucial to Preston’s retail sector and is offering flexible deals, trial periods and free marketing support.
He said: “Preston is no different to any other city in that it needs to have a vibrant independent sector to complement its branded high street offering.
“St George’s has always had a strong independent offering, from fashion outlets to fruit and veg shops and jewellers.
“There is a perception that being based in the city is highly expensive with long-term commitments. But there are many flexible options available.”
Alan Sharp, owner of ISIS Jewellers on Lune Street said: “The shopping centre has over 10 million visitors a year so there is an obvious benefit to having a central location. Business is still challenging but through the multi-million pound Fishergate regeneration project and some major brands taking over void high street units, you can see confidence is building in the city. It would be great to see more independent businesses come to Preston because, by their very nature, they can offer a unique retail experience.
Mr Stringer adds that the centre is already in discussions with a number of independent businesses from the food and drink sector.
He said: “Our modern indoor facilities appeal to food and drink businesses whether it’s an eaterie or a fresh food retailer.
“We’ve been approached by several such businesses but the discussions are at an early stage.
“We want St George’s to be a key constituent of vibrant independent trading community – they are key to Preston’s retail sector.”
Babs Murphy, Chief Executive of the North & Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce said: “This is a significant initiative which will ensure the unique character of Preston.
“A energetic retail sector can draw in visitors, and thus contribute significantly to the economic prosperity of an area.”