The number of people visiting Shrewsbury town centre jumped by more than 65 per cent as many shops reopened last week.
Various initiatives have been put in place to create a ‘safe and welcoming town centre’ over the summer which has included an enlarged central pedestrian zone during peak hours and pavement stickers to advise people to keep their distance.
Footfall counters operated by Springboard UK in Shrewsbury town centre recorded a 67 per cent increase in visits over the week compared to the previous week – and an 85 per cent increase on Saturday.
Seb Slater, executive director of Shrewsbury BID, said: “Overall footfall in the town centre last week was running at about 60 per cent of the same week last year, which compares well to a national figure of around 40 per cent for UK High Streets.
“Obviously town is quieter than it normally would be, with many businesses still not able to open, but this steady and significant increase in footfall is what we need to support our local businesses, many of which have suffered a huge loss in trade in the past few months.
“A huge amount of work has gone into making the town safe, and it’s important that people continue to observe social distancing rules – especially as the town gets busier as hospitality businesses reopen in July. Recent consumer research has found that as well as shopping, people are most looking forward to meeting up with friends for a meal, and we plan to promote Shrewsbury this summer as an enjoyable and safe day out.”
Kevin Lockwood, manager of the Shrewsbury Shopping Centres, said the Darwin and Pride Hill centres had about 50 per cent of the footfall as the same period last year.
“I think our traders were happy with how the week went,” he said. “The increased hygiene measures and signage to encourage social distancing worked well, so I think it’s fair to say the first week back was a success.
“We are expecting a steady increase in footfall as the weeks progress, especially once cafes and restaurants are allowed to reopen, so it’s important we all stay vigilant and work together to keep the town centre safe for everyone.”
The Shrewsbury Recovery Taskforce, made up of Shropshire Council, Shrewsbury Town Council and Shrewsbury BID, has been coordinating the work to support the town centre to reopen.
The main initiative has been the creation of a temporary central pedestrian zone, which involves High Street being closed to vehicles during peak pedestrian hours.
This is allowing the road to be used by pedestrians, so people can safely queue outside shops, and will enable space for outside areas to be used by businesses.
Councillor Peter Nutting, leader of Shropshire Council, said: “The measures to support public safety and the town centre recovery are temporary. Although there are fewer cars on the roads in general at the moment, as expected we have seen an increase in the amount of traffic using the Town Walls route.
“We will continue to monitor this situation and put in place any further measures we can to reduce through traffic at this time. Signs are being placed to advise motorists that town centre businesses and car parks are open, but directing through traffic around the edge of town.
“Additionally, as part of the Big Town Plan, we are developing a town-wide movement strategy to transform access into and around the town centre including reducing through traffic for the whole town centre.”
Councillor Alan Mosley, leader of Shrewsbury Town Council, said he felt the introduction of traffic measures had gone well.
“These interventions are always going to require some level of compromise,” he said. “We appreciate that some residents will have concerns and we appreciate that some businesses are having to reschedule their deliveries and suffer some inconvenience.
“We are extremely grateful that people are willing to work together to minimise the spread of the virus and enable the town centre to safely reopen, which is ultimately in all of our best interests.
“Indeed, when visiting the town over the weekend there was a great welcoming atmosphere and I feel that we must use the experience to plan for a much more pedestrian friendly environment for the longer term.”