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Our town shopping centres are on the up
1:00pm Thursday 29th August 2013 in News
THE thought of out-of-town shopping centres can often send shivers down the spines of town centre workers.
Millions of pounds of investment into attractive new units, free parking, and having everything under one roof, can spell the end to many high streets.
The investment to create a new food court, announced yesterday, is in addition to a £180million extension for 40 new stores as well as a larger Debenhams.
Intu, which owns the Grays centre, is also building a new raised champagne bar in the atrium and is planninganew leisure section.
But town centres are also doing a roaring trade and campaigners trying to keep shoppers local, don’t see Lakeside’s new look as a threat.
Managers in Southend and Basildon stood united yesterday in their belief their towns offer something different to Lakeside.
They predict trade will continue on an upward trend over the next few years.
While they admit the recession is still taking its toll, they say Basildon and Southend have turned a corner and are looking to upward growth.
Dawn Jeakings, who manages Southend’s Royal’s Shopping Centre, said: “Lakeside is a slightly different environment to town centre shopping. It isaregional shopping centre and you wouldn’t go there every week, but people do come to the Royals every week.
“It definitely feels better in Southend now. There is progress.
We have some potential offers of national brands coming in to the Royals and there are some positive vibes.
“I think we are probably better placed in Southend than a lot of towns. We have the seafront and leisure activities. Plus there has been a lot of investment in the town centre. It’s becoming the place to visit for leisure as well as shopping.”
In Basildon, the town is waiting for its 20-year masterplan to transform the town centre and create a booming night time economy to rival Festival Leisure.
Between 2018 and 2022, the town is expected to have a hotel, behind the planned cinema, more restaurants and an improved bus station.
Meanwhile a 24-hour gym called Anytime Fitness is due to open in the former Cahoots bar in Westgate and a former Co-op Travel in East Walk will re-open as a Turkish restaurant.
It hasn’t all been good news for Basildon though, with McDonald’s being the latest big name to announce its departure from the town centre earlier this year. Peacocks, Burger King, Jessops, Priceless Shoes and Currys have all left the town centre since 2012.
Despite the bad news, Hans Wustefeld, who is head of Basildon Town Centre Management, believes Basildon still has a lot of offer shoppers as well. Hans, who wonastring of awards when he managed the Eastgate Shopping Centre, said: “I moved to Basildon 17 years ago when towns were feeling the effects of Lakeside. Of course it affected Southend and Basildon, but it hasn’t done for a long time.
“There’s so much choice and there has always been competition. but Eastgate is doing pretty well despite the recession. It still gets 250,000 visitorsaweek in competition with Lakeside, Westfield in Stratford and Bluewater across the bridge. The town centre looks a bit tired, but I am sure Basildon will come out of it.
“Lakeside mightbe here to stay, but so is Basildon town centre.”
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