There’s a tote bag with a message for everyone. Well, everyone who likes to shop. ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get shopping’ and ‘Keep calm and shop’ on are just two.

The scandal over the demise of BHS has cast a cloud over the High Street this summer. And latest figures from the British Retail Consortium show that while July was a busier month than June, it was still fractionally worse than the same period last year.

The BRC also reported that the national town centre vacancy rate was 10.1 per cent in July 2016, up from 9.6 per cent in April 2016.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC, says the report has to be considered with other figures showing that total sales grew over the same period, thanks to discounting in summer sales.

“Some retailers in some locations may have some reasons to be cheerful,” she says.

“The retail industry is undergoing a transformation driven by technology which is changing the way we shop,” she adds, nodding to the ever-increasing popularity of online shopping.

Latest figures from Carlisle City Council show that 26 shop units are vacant compared to 18 last year.

But the authority points out that the situation in retail is fluid. What is vacant today can be filled tomorrow.

Of the total vacancies, eight units have been empty for the past two years.

Keith Jackson Keith Jackson also cautions that one month of figures does not signal a trend.

“We shouldn’t think everything is rosy, or grim,” he adds.

The retail analyst at the University of Cumbria says Carlisle does better than similar cities when it comes to shops.

“It has a good gravitational pull anyway, but the arrival of Primark will help by diverting traffic from Glasgow and Newcastle to Carlisle,” he explains.

“There are a whole lot of different variables out there affecting how we shop, including internet shopping.

“But the city does very well for a place of its size.

“We are doing better than a lot of cities the same size across the UK.

“It is a question of getting that good mix between national chains and local business and offering variety.

“If you have that, you have a vibrant retail offer and for the size of the city, Carlisle is doing really well.”

David Jackson David Jackson, commercial director of The Lanes Shopping Centre, says there are currently 12 store vacancies at the retail centre.

But several are awaiting the arrival of new stores, while some are being withheld for redeveloping into a bigger unit.

The new, large space will be along the lines of the old County Store and Mr Jackson reveals talks have been underway with an interested business for some time.

Meanwhile, five new leases will be realised over the coming weeks and months, including the giant Primark and a pop-up Toys R Us store.

Together, they are likely to mean the centre will enjoy its busiest Christmas in years.

Footfall is currently down around five per cent which Mr Jackson says equates to the business that would have been generated by the now-closed BHS.

“If you take that into account, we are level with last year. When Primark opens those figures will escalate,” he says.

“There is a fair amount of optimism among our shop owners and managers.”

That upbeat assessment is shared by Joe Broomfield, Allerdale council town centre manager for Keswick and Cockermouth.

Both towns were hit hard by Storm Desmond in December.

Mr Broomfield says the road back has been tough.

Joe Broomfield He does not log figures, but says from his own experience that business is back on track.

“I have noticed that since the reopening of the A591 things have dramatically improved in Keswick.

“Every time I have been there, car parks have been full and footfall is high.

“There are very few empty shops in Keswick and those that become available are taken up very quickly.

“It has been a very difficult period since the floods and it has taken a long time to carry out repairs, but we are there to a greater extent now.”

Traders in Cockermouth have battled back, though some are still in temporary shops.

“It is still a very difficult time for those that have been flooded and there are still a few shops waiting to get back in,” adds Mr Broomfield.

“But vacancy rates seem relatively low. There is a fantastic community spirit and they are determined to succeed.

“The Northbound music festival was a great success and we have the Taste Cumbria food festival and the Jennings Rivers Ride to come.”

Footfall in Workington has been on an upward trend for a number of years, according to town centre manager Toni Magean.

He reckons the vacancy rate in town centre shops to be around two per cent.

Toni Magean He says: “The town centre is thriving and we have had a quite a lot of businesses moving in – the latest one being Domino’s pizza.

“Our footfall figures have increased from 84,000 four years ago to over 100,000 now.”

The battle for our spending money has never been tougher, with High Street stores changing what they do and how they sell to counter the growing competition online.

But there is still a demand to have a presence in Cumbria’s main shopping centres. There is still a desire to go out and shop.

The arrival of two new independent eateries in Carlisle city centre and the opening of a new outlet in Workington by the giant Domino’s Pizza underline a continued confidence in our shopping centres.

A belief that they are worth investing in and that they still hold an attraction for the public.

Keith Jackson adds: “For everyone pulling out of our towns or Carlisle, there are others thinking ‘I could give that a go’. There are always opportunities there. Franchise people and national chains like Domino’s will look closely if they are thinking of investing in a new site.”