MORPETH’S high street has enjoyed a bumper Christmas, traders have reported.
Shops have recorded increased sales on previous years and footfall in Sanderson Arcade was up 15 per cent for the last three weeks of the year compared to the same period in 2012.
Sales in department store Rutherfords of Morpeth were eight per cent up on last year, and the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade says there has been a similar story for many of its members.
Rutherfords owner Richard Rutherford said: “We have had a very good Christmas.
“It has helped that we had free parking for Christmas and we have got enough parking in Morpeth now. Our customers had no trouble finding a space. Morpeth is becoming a regional hub. We know a lot of people shop locally here, but we are also getting more visitors.
“I think there is a lot of good news and I’m proud to be in Morpeth.”
Mr Rutherford also had praise for rival Dransfield Properties, which he says has boosted the town with its redevelopment of Sanderson Arcade.
“Sanderson Arcade is a major competitor to me, but I think it is helping the town,” he said.
“We have had five years of recession and it has been a difficult trading period. People should ask themselves what would Morpeth be like if we hadn’t had Sanderson Arcade.
“I travel the length and breadth of the country and I see towns that are nearly derelict. We have a vibrant, prosperous, beautiful town and we should recognise that.”
The strong performance at Sanderson Arcade over Christmas has continued into the New Year, with both trade and footfall figures up on the previous year.
Feedback from tenants has also been positive and its Clarks outlet was named Franchise Store of the Month in December as the best performing shop from 34 in the region.
Centre Manager Medi Parry said: “The indications are that this has been a much stronger Christmas period than the previous year, which certainly gives us cause for optimism as we go into 2014. The first two weeks of January have also been busy.
“We worked hard over Christmas on our programme of events to offer customers something a little different. There was a lot of positive feedback from our customers about the free parking period and a general feeling that this really attracted shoppers into Morpeth. Sunday shopping was also a focus for us.”
Chamber of Trade spokesman John Beynon said: “The majority of the independent stores seem to have had a good Christmas. Most traders I have spoken to were up on last year’s sales, some of them quite significantly.
“I think it is because Morpeth has so much to offer, but also the free parking period seemed to appeal to people. It generated a lot of interest and changed the atmosphere. The public seemed to really appreciate it.”