Preston’s top of the shops

Looking forward: Fishergate Centre boss Keith Mitchell

Looking forward: Fishergate Centre boss Keith Mitchell

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Preston is on the up – and 2016 will prove to be its year.

The city’s place in the pecking order of major shopping destinations of the North is set to soar in the New Year, according to business leaders.

The changes will reflect the quality of shopping on offer, showcasing the quality of our brands

With a £25m development of the Fishergate Centre planned, and units rapidly being filled in St George’s shopping centre, the future is looking bright.

Major new brands moving to Preston are “just the start of what’s to come”, bosses have predicted.

Keith Mitchell, manager of the Fishergate Shopping Centre, said: “We are looking forward to another successful year and to playing a major role in Preston’s regeneration.

“There is no doubt that 2016 is set to be a key year, both for the centre and Preston as a retail destination.

“We are eager to get the go ahead to start work on the £25m investment we have planned for the centre which will make such a difference to the city’s fortunes. Our vision for the fortunes. Our vision for the future of the centre has received widespread support from all quarters and our plans will encourage people to spend and enjoy more time in our city. These are exciting times.”

Andrew Stringer, general manager at St George’s Shopping Centre, is looking ahead to a promising 2016, following hot on the heels of the arrivals of big brands opening in the centre in the autumn.

The New Year will see the centre undergo a facelift at all its entrances as part of a longer term vision to improve the shopping centre and draw more people into the city.

Andrew said: “There has been a lot going on behind the scenes to identify how to keep the shopping centre modern, vibrant and accessible. To attract shoppers to the city, we need to keep investing.

“Our approved plans to improve key entrances to St George’s aim to make the centre brighter and more welcoming, enhancing the overall shopping experience.

“The changes will reflect the quality of shopping on offer, showcasing the quality of our brands.”

The St George’s improvement work, which is due to start in February, will see changes made to the centre’s Fishergate, Friargate and Lune Street entrances.

The Fishergate entrance will feature a fresh façade to give the centre more prominence from the high street and there will be improved external lighting and signage at all the entrances.

The shopping centre will remain open throughout.

Towards the end of 2015 the centre saw the arrival of luxury jewellery and crystal retailer Swarovski, continental café and cake shop Patisserie Valerie, high street toy retailer The Entertainer and Danish design store Tiger.

Other new stores joining the tenant line up include Jessops, Home and Fragrance plus independent stores including menswear fashion store Chris Clare and childrenswear retailer Minotti all of who have recently opened their doors.

Earlier in the year Andrew said there had been a “real appetite from some of the UK’s leading brands” and “exciting conversations were taking place.”

Today he said: “The opening of the new stores is proof of this, confidence is growing and we can attract those big names into Preston.

“More conversations are taking place and we are continuing to see interest grow. Leading brands make a big difference, meaning shoppers need not go further afield.

“For a long time people haven’t needed to come into the city centre to do their shopping, so, it’s about making people want to come here.”

Andrew added: “St George’s is in the heart of the city and there’s a lot of loyalty here. Preston is passionate and while there have been tough times and challenges, there is more optimism in the city.”

Hugh Evans, deputy chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, said: “There’s plenty happening in Lancashire for us to be optimistic.

“Continued developments in Preston’s City Deal and our two Enterprise Zones in particular will provide opportunities for business investment and growth.”

The Fishergate Centre plans, one of the largest private sector investments in the city centre for more than two decades, will create more than 250 long-term jobs, the centre’s owner Benson Elliot said.

The redundant TJ Hughes store will be replaced with six modern shop units, a new mall linking to a feature entrance from the car park, and a family-oriented leisure offer of five restaurants and a fully integrated compact cinema.

St George’s Shopping Centre boasts over 100 stores, 410 car parking spaces and is open seven days a week. The Shopping Centre has more than 280,000 sq ft of retail space.