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Primark still top priority for Carlisle shoppers

Persuading Primark to set up shop remains a key hope of bargain-hunters in Carlisle.

Colin Glover: ‘Ridiculous when we’ve two local authority tiers’

But retail experts also say the city centre lacks some higher end stores which it could be expected to have.

Despite cash problems dogging the high street, big-name companies are poised to pounce on chances to launch or expand their presence in Carlisle.

Lack of sites big enough is, however, the stumbling block for many – including cut-price clothing chain Primark.

Economic experts who studied believe a “step-change” in clothes stores could help boost business – as could an “enhanced music and theatre destination” and an upgrade of The Sands Centre.

They are some of the highlights from a retail study commissioned by the city council as it maps growth in the area up until 2030.

It estimates 200,000sq ft of new non-food retailing space will be needed in the city between now and 2021.

Planners are now looking at their findings as they draw up a list of potential development sites to be unveiled next year.

The study, by commercial analysts GVA, has been drawn up as part of work to create the Carlisle district’s next local plan, a key document in driving the area’s future financial fortunes.

It says the city centre is currently “performing well”, with little leakage to rival trading areas, but not reaching its full potential.

Issues surrounding restrictions imposed to protect Carlisle’s history and a lack or larger units are flagged as factors in this.

Researchers say shops in the city centre reflect its “sub-regional status”, but that it lacks prominent operators such as Primark, Zara and mid-to-higher range fashion retailers such as All Saints, Reiss, Ted Baker and Diesel.

They state: “Although the city centre accommodates most mainstream high street facias, retailers currently trade from very small units which reduce the fashion product lines that can be stocked in comparison to larger stores.

“There is potentially latent demand for existing retailers to up-size.

“We consider there is realistic potential to improve market share performance of the city centre to better enable it to assume its intended sub-regional role for the wider area.

“A step-change in city centre fashion offer is particularly required to address current constraints/defi-ciencies.”

Securing new retail space, however, comes with a warning that new schemes will only enhance the area if they are of “genuine quality” to add to what is already there.

Shoppers were surveyed as part of the research.

Asked what shopping attractions would persuade them to shop in the city centre more often – aside from suggesting no improvements – the main responses were a Primark store, more independent shops and more ladies’ clothing stores.

On what would make the greatest improvements, most responses were for more shops, a better range of shops and specifically attracting Primark.

Primark has previously stated it is interested in setting up in Carlisle but cannot find a site big enough.

City council deputy leader Colin Glover believes the report shows every reason to be positive about trade in Carlisle.

He said: “We’re bucking the trend nationally. It’s good to see The Lanes vibrant and they are confident about the future.

“We need to have a vibrant city centre with mixed use – more than just retail.

“We have retailers interested into coming to the city. They’re just waiting for the right sites to become available.”

Food shopping in the city centre is described as being of “top-up”, with people complementing their main shop at places including Tesco Metro and Marks & Spencer.

Have your say

you are quite right Dr No, the council, other than being a significant landlord in carlisle, has nothing to do with it, the economy in carlisle bumps around, shops empty, shops occupy, very little the council can do about it, but by making a fuss they can claim credit.

Posted by tony on 25 January 2013 at 21:50

Why do the council have to do anything to help primark come here, they have enough money to buy land and build a store wherever they want and if they were desperate to come they would have done that. I have friends who would love to move to Carlisle are the council paying to help them move, and to top it all do we really want that tat here

Posted by dr no on 25 January 2013 at 17:30

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