Skegness ‘resilient’ to national retail crisis

The Hildreds Centre in Skegness. Photo by Philip Murray.
The Hildreds Centre in Skegness. Photo by Philip Murray.

THE DISTINCTIVE and unique retail sector in Skegness provides resilience against the troubles affecting national high streets, town centre manager Stefan Krause has claimed.

Despite a spate of recent shop closures and threats of more to come, Mr Krause remains optimistic about the town’s retail economy, which he believes has fared better than most across the country.

He said: “We have a strong entrepreneurial spirit in this town and a unique, distinctive identity, which is not as susceptible to the national problems affecting big brands.

“We also have millions of visitors besides the 20,000 year-round residents and a large number of affluent older people enabling us to capitalise on the ‘silver pound’.

“Businesses here work together at tackling problems rather than in isolation, which can be seen in our recent joined up approach to revitalising Lumley Road.”

Mr Krause’s claims have been corroborated by a study published by the Local Data Company last Tuesday which lists Skegness as having the fourth best retail occupancy rate in the East Midlands with just 6.9 per cent of its shop units vacant.

Although that survey was taken at the beginning of 2011, before many of the latest shop closures, Mr Krause has collated his own study which lists the vacancy rate as just over four per cent as of December last year.

He has pointed to the 18 new and refurbished premises which opened last year as evidence the town is surviving well amid the economic down turn.

The LDB report also identifies a number of problems including weak consumer confidence, rising unemployment, expanding supermarkets and increasing trends in online shopping which have trapped many retail centres in a ‘downward spiral’ that will be difficult to reverse.

Mr Krause believes the type of businesses that are emerging most rapidly in Skegness are those which have greater immunity to these problems than most.

Although there is little that can be done about nationwide chain closures, he feels that the high proportion of small family run businesses will enable the town’s shopping streets to remain healthy.

Many of the newly opened businesses offer services rather than physical goods, which Mr Krause believes will be more resilient to the growing transition towards online shopping.

Recommendations put forward in the LBD report to address these problems support many of those offered by the Portas Review, which suggests that town centres should become more attractive places to shop and more supportive of markets. Mr Krause believes that Skegness is already following these recommendations through its attempts to partially pedestrianise Lumley Road to allow for more street markets.