Reasons to be cheerful as we enter a new year

Positive predictions: Keith Mitchell,  Fishergate Centre
Positive predictions: Keith Mitchell, Fishergate Centre
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Retailers in Preston have enjoyed a good end to 2014 with the tills ringing in the Fishergate Shopping Centre, on average, more than in many previous years.

The feedback from the shops themselves is that 2015 will be a good year and there are some good reasons to believe the positive predictions will come true.

Growth is being driven by investment in the centre’s visitor experience, which has included boosting our online presence and social media marketing. This is something that is going to become ever more important to the retail sector over the next 12 months.

The effort and investment, both financial and with new ideas, we are making inside the Fishergate Centre is being matched by massive improvements to the public realm on Fishergate itself.

It has been a painful experience at times, but the changes we’ve seen to Preston’s premier retail street are paving the way to a brighter future by improving the visitor experience and making shopping in the city a better experience.

There have been disruptions, and at times it has been frustrating, but that is understandable given the scale of the project.

Standing outside our main Fishergate entrance, you see the street transformed. Its whole atmosphere and vibe has changed for the better.

There’s so much more room for everyone and we’re also seeing the emergence of a café culture, as outlets take advantage of the space that has been created, and again that’s adding to the new vibe.

The gateway project means that Preston has now got a premier shopping street worthy of any city in the North West. It is something we should all be proud of. It also links to the much-improved entrance into the railway station.

We buy into the vision for improving Preston and want to play our role in it.

Again, as with the Fishergate improvements, it is all about improving the visitor experience to increase footfall.

And that is something Benson Elliot, owners of the Fishergate Centre, has been committed to delivering since taking it over in 2013.

Social media is vital to getting messages out there among customers. We are hiring brilliant, local talent to drive this and the work they are doing is certainly beginning to pay off.

With the internet at our customers’ fingertips, our website and platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are becoming ever more important marketing tools.

The way the retail sector communicates and interacts with consumers continues to change and develop in today’s multi-media world.

Responding to that change is vital for all retail outlets and is the key to future growth in High Street shopping.