Shoppers heading back to town centre

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ROTHERHAM’S town centre has received welcome good news after years of decline – new statistics show shoppers’ footfall has increased by a third compared with last year.

According to national research, while major cities have seen a drop in footfall rates, smaller regional towns such as Rotherham have seen the number of people shopping in and visiting their town centres rise.

Rotherham’s rate for September this year has risen by a dramatic 32.3 per cent compared to the same month last year.

A range of initiatives are being credited for helping to drive the increase in shoppers and help reduce vacancy rates for town centre shops.

New stores have been opening regularly, including the launch of the Bitter Sweet Boutique – a shop selling gifts, jewellery, furniture and items for the home.

A Shop Local loyalty card scheme has also been launched in the town, which currently has more than 11,000 subscribers and involves 100 stores.

Shoppers receive offers, discounts and incentives in stores and restaurants across Rotherham town centre. The project won a national award last month.

And, during the summer, a range of town centre events and the opening of the Minster Gardens public open space in the heart of the town centre have been praised for pulling visitors into the town’s streets.

Government-appointed retail guru – TV star Mary Portas – has also made a fact-finding visit to the town to see how struggling centres can be revived.

Coun Gerald Smith, Rotherham Council cabinet member for town centres, economic growth and prosperity, said: “These figures reflect the positive changes that have been made in the town centre to help traders fight back in these challenging economic circumstances. Rotherham has to offer something different to shoppers and an environment they find welcoming.

“To do that we have encouraged small business growth, found innovative ways to help local traders, and invested in the infrastructure.

“The benefits of that are now being seen.

“Although, of course, there is still a way to go, with thousands of shoppers showing their commitment to Rotherham we are confident the town centre will continue to develop.”