Wednesday, 02 December 2015

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How to save our shops

Last week I wrote about the closure of Hoopers and the general decline of shopping in Carlisle city centre.

I urged the new Labour-led city council to introduce new and innovative ways of encouraging shops to open and thrive and provide an inviting and interesting mix of shopping.

The council can’t cut business rates as they are set nationally. It could scrap special events, such as the international market or Christmas market, or the annual Bitts Park Fireshow and use the money to boost businesses – but these are hugely popular dates that add extra sparkle and life to the city centre.

The simple answer of many shoppers and shopkeepers is to cut or axe parking charges.

But parking is a major stream of revenue for councils across Cumbria.

Carlisle city council earns around £1m a year from motorists.

But one way could be to offer special rates of parking along the lines of: pay for two hours, get a third free.

Having an extra hour for shopping would encourage visitors to stay for a lunch or coffee or maybe even spend more time spending money.

And what about a parking amnesty every weekend? So every Saturday we get free parking whenever we go into town for our shopping.

These special offers might reduce the parking income – or it could encourage more people to use the car parks.

But it’s not all down to Carlisle city councillors – or those in Allerdale or Copeland or Eden to make our shopping centres more attractive and user-friendly.

The shops and stores in all our town centres need to look harder at what they do and how they do it.

Special events and cut prices are all well and good, but wWhy only have late night shopping during Christmas time for a start? Why not open later on Thursday (until, say, 8pm) as a matter of course so that people get the chance to finish work and get into town before the shutters come down?


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