It has been pointed out that an element of ‘churn' is valuable - shops have always come and gone as life-styles and tastes have changed, and there needs to be room for newcomers. Right now, however, our town centre is on the cusp of big changes. Some of these factors can be seen in the developments at our two indoor shopping malls, and perhaps lessons can be learned.
In the Buttermarket Shopping Centre there is a big reduction in the amount of retail space because of the insertion of the new cinemas and restaurants. But the popularity of TK Maxx now on the ground floor shows that there is still a demand for suitable retailing. In consequence the vacant shop units on the right as you enter from Butter Market itself ought to be occupied soon. It seems regrettable though that New Look on the left of this entrance arcade has blanked out most of its windows. Hardly a welcoming entrance at present!
At Sailmakers, the bright and airy refurbishment is welcoming. This is the perfect site for a town centre shopping mall. The entrance from Tavern Street, so close to the town centre, is thriving as expected. Yet the upper floor, approached on its own natural level from the main bus station and from important car parks, is at present (early March) very under-used. Perhaps the Crown Street car park when finished and enlarged might make a difference. But one wonders whether the small off-centre lift is not attracting enough shoppers to go up to the higher level as they used to.
Perhaps a local regular shopper is presumptuous in thinking that the professionals and experts could have done some things better at both shopping malls. But it is crystal clear that town centre shopping has to be made very attractive and easy so as to combat competition from out-of-town retailing and the internet.