The boss of one of Preston’s shopping centre said he thinks the city is better placed than many similar locations across the country.
Andrew Stringer who is the general manager at St George’s Shopping Centre has thrown his weight behind the Evening Post’s Shop Local, Play Local, Eat Local campaign and is keen to shout about what is on offer.
Mr Stringer said there is room for improvement but he added: “We are seeing major physical improvements taking place at the heart of the city with the Fishergate Central Gateway project.
“This will transform the main high street when it completes in summer. Other similar projects – such as the Winckley Square regeneration project - show how serious Preston is about progressing its physical city centre offering which will appeal to retailers considering Preston as a destination.”
Mr Stringer says Preston has something for everyone but he believes work needs to be done to keep people in the city for longer.
He said: “One thing Preston needs to get better at is keeping visitors in the city for longer. This means a stronger leisure and cultural experience, and making our retail offer available beyond 5pm.
“The current ‘after work’ market is weak compared to other cities.”
Mr Stringer says the employment market is heavily linked to the retail sector and a growth in people working in Preston will fuel demand for retail and leisure.
He said: “Hopefully over the next 12 months, as the economy grows, we will see new brands and businesses locate to Preston, creating jobs, boosting footfall and building confidence in the city. We can never compete with Manchester or Liverpool in terms of scale but they are good examples of how a strong employment market can have a knock-on effect on retail.”
Mark Whittle from Preston’s Business Improvement district added: “We recognise that the city centre needs a strong leisure offer to encourage visitors to come more often, and, to stay longer.
“Gone are the days when people physically had to come to a city centre. We, as a city, need to offer a very compelling reason why they should choose to visit, much like any other town/city centre nationally. “We’re working with retailers and venues to encourage them to see the potential in looking to bridge the 5pm-9pm slow-down. It is recognised via the city’s Purple Flag status that we have an early evening economy, but partnerships need to be forged to ensure people, once they’ve finished their retail business, consider eating out and enjoying leisure time in the city.”
“The City Retail Forum is attempting to tackle this issue as we speak, that said, it will need a cultural shift, which is never a quick process.”