Shopping bonanza in run-up to Christmas

Orchards Shopping Centre, Haywards Heath. Nicola Bird, Orchards Centre Manager inset
Orchards Shopping Centre, Haywards Heath. Nicola Bird, Orchards Centre Manager inset

Traders in Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill are hoping encouraging increases in town centre visitors will turn into better Christmas takings.

Crowds are up by as much as 10 per cent and some shops have already reported “brilliant” trade in the run-up despite the lure of the internet and armchair shopping.

Nicola Bird, who manages The Orchards shopping centre in Haywards Heath said: “Dorothy Perkins is up by 40 per cent, Fat face is booming and our footfall is up by 2.8 per cent year on year.

“People have loved the Marks and Spencer pop-up gift shop - I wish we could have it here all year round.

“Shoppers have been so loyal and have really supported us. It’s been fabulous and a brilliant start to the New Year.”

The story appears just as encouraging in Burgess Hill, with an increased number of shoppers turning out, especially when events have been staged. Centre managers are hoping the increased number of people visiting town centres will show up as increased takings at shops when the final Christmas period figures are known.

Chris Goldfinch, who manages The Market Place, said: “It’s been brilliant. Waitrose has nearly doubled its floor space with the new extension and its been a real boost for other shops.

“Boots and Wilkinsons have exceeded their targets and trade is up by 30 per cent at Bonmarché. Hopefully, we’ve turned a corner and can leave the recession behind us.”

Ian Goodridge, manager of the Martlets Shopping Centre, said : “Certainly the footfall is up on last year. We are edging towards 10 per cent more . We have put more events on as part of the town centre partnership and the larger Waitrose has helped.”

Both Haywards Heath and Burgess Hill attracted shoppers with Christmas events, including the switch-on of festive lights. Given better weather than last year, they drew good-sized crowds.

Mid Sussex District Council helped to boost trade by discounting fees in some of its car parks on several Saturdays leading up to Christmas.

Last Saturday was the final one where the council offered £1 a day long stay parking.