The continued demise of large high street retailers is a common, almost daily theme in the national news. But there’s a high street in Runcorn which is bucking this UK-wide trend and helping retailers to thrive.
Runcorn Shopping City has proven to be a valuable home to almost 30 independent, community-run businesses for the past 47 years, with occupancy levels standing at a record 94.6% and footfall levels rising steadily over the past 12 months. The positive results follow a £9+million injection of investment over the past 7 years.
Karl Clawley, manager at Runcorn Shopping City, said the reason for the successful footfall and occupancy levels, was a combination of factors:
“For footfall to remain high despite country-wide declines, we understood the importance of creating a welcoming, social environment where people want to shop, go for lunch and meet friends, without putting unnecessary barriers in their way.”
Over the past 7 years, £9+million was invested into the refurbishment of the center’s free car parks, its lighting and the creation of a new 25,000sq ft retail space.
“When we speak to visitors, the general idea of the high street disappearing isn’t a welcome one. But people want a great experience when they go shopping, and we make it our job to support the independent retailers based here, so that they know how to provide exactly that.”
Karl introduced ‘The Box’ to the shopping complex in 2016, providing brand new businesses with retail space so that they can try out a new venture, as well as forming a ‘review forum’ for all independent stores to take advantage of.
“We set up an initiative that looks at various ways of promoting a ‘shop local, stay local’ mindset. Within that, we offer free analysis and suggestions surrounding merchandising, store layouts and window displays – it provides business owners with a second opinion, which has shown to boost footfall and sales for our retailers.”
The centre was also one of the first in the country to become autism friendly, by introducing a weekly ‘autism shopping hour’, where mall lights are dimmed, music is switched off and hand driers shut down. A ‘chill room’ was also created to provide a calm escape for children or adults.