DONCASTER has enjoyed a major rise in the number of town centre retailers, despite the economic downturn, according to one Britain’s biggest accountancy firms.
The survey by PriceWaterhouseCoopers reveals the borough saw its number of shops grow by 20 last year, as 48 opened and 28 closed during the year 2010-2011.
In the Yorkshire area, only Harrogate had better figures, with a gain of 22 shops.
Yorkshire as a region did well with a net gain of 10 shops in the survey, which looked at multiple retailers.
The worst figures were in Scotland, with a loss of 30 shops overall.
Business leaders in Doncaster described the figures as encouraging, with difficult times around the corner and a tough marketplace.
Doncaster Chamber of Commerce head of policy Daniel Fell said: “The retail sector currently faces enormous challenges. Consumer confidence is weak and, with inflation spiralling towards five per cent, gross disposable household income is likely to fall further throughout the remainder of 2011.
“Public sector spending cuts and resulting job losses are likely to impact further, particularly in northern economies like Doncaster, thus creating even tougher times for retailers.
“With this in mind, it is encouraging that Doncaster’s retail sector has proved to be so resilient.
“The town is a draw for shoppers from the east of the region with Frenchgate and the markets being key assets along with some of the town’s independent shops. This will, no doubt, have influenced the figures and contributed to Doncaster’s comparatively strong position.
“However, there is certainly no room for complacency and it is imperative that businesses within the sector, particularly those most closely linked with discretionary spend, find innovative ways to differentiate themselves from the competition - whether that be shops in other towns or online retailers with significantly lower overheads - in order to stay ahead of the game, and indeed survive, in what remains a very tough market.”
Shoppers in Doncaster town centre had mixed views of the retail offering in the borough.
Darren Callender, aged 35, of Bentley, said: “I think shopping in Doncaster is pretty good, and the shopping area has cleaned up in the last few years. I don’t find there is anything I can’t buy here.”
Denise Mitchell, aged 62, from Retford, said she came to Doncaster for her clothes and shoe shopping.
She said: “I love coming here, and I prefer it to Meadowhall, which I find horrendous. It doesn’t surprise me if Doncaster is doing well.
“There is a good choice of shops, in close vicinity, and the prices are affordable.”
But 62-year-old Laurencee Wood, from Scawsby, said she was surprised by the report.
She said: “There are too many bookies’ shops, too many cafes and not enough shops. Even now, the old Roseby’s shop near the market is being converted into a bookmaker’s. It is not the sort of shops I want to see coming into the town centre.”