Shoppers show little festive cheer
Consumer confidence has dropped below last year's levels, according to a new study.
Christmas has failed to raise more than a glimmer of cheer for shoppers, with confidence levels getting worse or staying the same across 86% of high streets compared with the same time last year, according to a survey of town centre managers conducted for the Local Government Association (LGA).
Some 43% of respondents said confidence was worse than last year, while 43% said it was about the same and 11% said it was better.
Nearly three-fifths (59%) thought it would decline further, 27% said it would remain the same and only 5% said it would improve.
All respondents said councils had introduced measures to boost trade. These included traditional Christmas lights (84%), Christmas shopping information leaflets (57%), free parking (46%), Christmas markets (43%) and additional support for independent stores (27%).
Peter Box, chairman of the LGA's economy and transport board, said: "Councils have a vital role in increasing the numbers of shoppers on the high street by running local events, keeping streets clean and safe and working with local groups, and it's encouraging that councils up and down the country are taking action to boost trade, support local businesses and play a vital role in helping to attract shoppers to the high street.
"But despite festive tills continuing to jingle in many parts of the country, there is a growing feeling that shoppers are spending less and it's worrying that about two-thirds of those who manage our high streets think low confidence is set to mar next year's festive period. We need to act now to ensure town centres can thrive once more."
The LGA is calling for the Government to recognise that retail shops alone are not enough to encourage people to visit high streets.
It says community-driven plans are needed to revitalise local town centres and tourist attractions, community events, sports centres or local markets could act as the centrepiece.
The LGA believes local people should also be given new powers to decide the type of shops on their high street. This would include giving councils the tools to tackle the clustering of premises such as betting shops, fast-food takeaways and late night off-licences, and limit the power of the planning inspectorate to overturn local community decisions.