NUMBERS of shoppers in Sheffield city centre have risen over the last year - bucking a national trend of continuing decline.
City and town centres across the country suffered an average decrease in footfall of 1.1 per cent last year.
But Sheffield recorded a 0.5 per cent rise in January compared to a year ago - with 1,209,108 visits to the city centre in the month.
The council also carried out its quarterly survey among shoppers to find out their views about the city centre, which also showed improvements.
People said they felt safer and the city centre was cleaner and better managed than three months ago.
People who felt safe in the city centre increased to 81.6 per cent from 80.2 per cent, 96 per cent were satisfied with the standard of cleanliness, up two percentage points, while 96 per cent felt the city centre was well managed, up four percentage points.
The good news was welcomed by shopkeepers and business leaders - who believe the increase in shoppers is down to factors ranging from environmental improvements to festivals such as Tramlines pulling in crowds and more people living in the city centre.
Stefan Gallagher, of Slide Board Store, Division Street, said: “I think events held in the Devonshire Quarter, such as Tramlines and the outdoor markets, have been helpful to us in terms of bringing in extra shoppers.
“We have just taken on an extra full-time apprentice, so now have three full-time staff.”
Fellow Devonshire Quarter trader Yvonne McDonagh, of Plantology, said: “The increased footfall in the city centre could be down to more people living here - and many of them are students from China and Japan, who tend to spend quite a lot of money, which is good news for us.”
Richard Wright, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce executive director, said: “It shows the value of a good environment and an active events programme to attract the visitors in.
“We cannot afford to be complacent though.
“The recent bad news of a massive funding cut for Museums Sheffield can quickly alter the offer of the city for instance.
“What is positive is the effort being put into major events like the Global Manufacturing Festival and the MADE entrepreneurs festival, which can only further improve these figures.”
Coun Julie Dore, Sheffield Council leader, said: “The city centre calendar shows the value that key events play in driving footfall, and just how vital they are.
“As an example, both the Food Festival and Tramlines took place in July 2011 which gave a combined 43.2 per cent increase over their respective weekends compared to 2010.”