High tide at Waterside

Double digit footfall growth at Lincoln’s Waterside centre

Lincoln’s Waterside shopping centre is leading a revival in the city’s high street, with double-digit growth in footfall following the opening of a new 11,300-sq ft Topshop and Topman unit, a new Vision Express flagship store and Skechers joining the retail line up.

Waterside is outperforming both regional and national benchmarks, after September’s BRC-Springboard Footfall Monitor revealed a national decline of 1.7% on the previous year, with Lincolnshire experiencing a 3.9% decline.

“This year we said we were committed to making the Waterside shopping centre the home of the biggest and best brands in fashion and that we were prepared to invest significantly in the centre to make this happen,” said Harry Wildsmith of Hark Group, asset & development manager on behalf of Waterside Lincoln Limited Partnership. “Over £3m has been invested in improving the centre for our customers. This is Topshop and Topman’s only new store of the year, and we will soon be welcoming Skechers to the centre.”

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  1. Without any intended criticism of the Waterside Centre, this article seems to miss the key points about retailing and about town centres.

    I know this centre and if it has finally been finished, then so much the better. It is in a good position and has real potential, but it seems that the idea that a new(ish) shopping centre will be the cure to all ills in any town is simplky to misunderstand the function of towns.

    I realise that to many retailers and shopping centre managers this may sound like heresy, but, let me explain…

    For the past forty-five years I have been working in retail management in some capacity or other, From my first management post in central London in 1974 through my first regional post with Boots back in 1979 to working with ‘distressed businesses’, and new start-ups here in the twenty-teens, I feel that my experience in that field qualifies me to comment. Alongside of all this, I have also been working in the field of town centre management since the mid 1980s as a retailer, as a participant in schemes, as an advisor to major projects and as a practitioner participant in the great debate about British ‘High Streets’. So, I have that tee shirt too!

    Did I mention that I was a qualified and practising geographer? It is with this melange of experiences that I look at our town centres and occasionally weep!

    Lincoln is a great case in point. Its traditional retail area around the lower gates of the old city has spread. It has spread beyond the railway line, which tradtionally marked a boundary between the city centre and the district centre beyond – the main difference being that people still lived in the district centre! The St Mark’s development, the retail park developments all along from Rope Walk along the Tritton Road, have created such a retail sprawl that it simply has to have impacted on the traditional city centre retail offer.

    Lincoln is the regional centre for a wide rural area, but it is an area which is characterised by being sparsely populated. Now, this is an advantage on the one hand to Lincoln, because people in Lincolnshire think nothing of driving twenty odd miles to do the shopping – but it is still a cost, and increasing. The offer in the ‘competing’ smaller towns, Scunthorpe, Market Rasen, Gainsborough, Louth, Cleethorpes, Great Grimsby, Boston, Sleaford, Retford and even Newark has been gradually improving – yet the available disposable income has not grown at the rate that retailing has spread, and despite the targets for hosuing growth in the Central Lincolnshire Local Plan, this is planned housing, not actual – it may not happen!

    I am pleased that the Waterside is seeing double digit growth, but that has to be sustained in order for it to be believed. Parts of the centre were like a building site for at least a couple of years, presumably awaiting tenants. With these new stores open, there is, of course, the natural curiosity of people to visit. The measure will be how those customers are retained and make return visits. What is probably less pleasing, is that the area within the walls, north of the gate at the top of the High Street, the footfall appears to be declining. That may indicate yet further displacement rather than the creation of new business – for the town this cannot be good news.

    What impact on the already struggling area around Cornhill and the old Markets? Unless, and until, we recognise that the building of more retail sales space is not a panacea, and will not endlessly bring in new custom and expand the markets in which we operate, then we are simply going to be displacing business. The result, if we are not also carefully planning and implementing changes of use and function for the areas from whence the displacement has occurred, will be to create voids, create the potential for decay and will present our towns in a poor light to visitors. That is not a good thing – especially for cities such as Lincoln who rely on tourist income.

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