Rise in number of Northampton shops wins praise from retail experts
The proportion of filled shopping units in Northampton has won acclaim from retail consultants.
Nexus Planning was been paid by Northampton Borough Council to produce an in-depth study of the state of the town's various shopping areas.
Although vacancy rates are higher than the national average, the fact that that figure has shrunk in the last eight years in Northampton was noted by the report author. The percentage of vacancies has dropped from 17.3 per cent in 2010 to 14.9 per cent in 2018.
The report says: "Although the percentage of vacant units has fallen since the previous study, it continues to exceed the UK average of 11.2 per cent.
"Nonetheless, this improvement over the last eight years is a notable achievement given the current challenging trading environment."
The market research runs to well over 500 pages. Despite its thoroughness, Nexus did see fit to question the views of Northamptonians on some subjects.
Many people told the survey team they believed the town centre was too scruffy.
However the report responded: "At the time of Nexus Planning’s site visits, Northampton town centre appeared to have an acceptable level of cleanliness.
"It is considered that the issue may be to do with historic perceptions or the frequency of street cleaning services."
Elsewhere, the study found that 40 per cent of borough residents visit Northampton town centre more than any other area, followed by Weston Favell at 26.8 per cent, Milton Keynes at 22.3 per cent and Kingsthorpe at 10.8 per cent.
Cllr Tim Hadland (Con, Old Duston), cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, said: “This study is proving invaluable as we refocus our thinking on the future of Northampton town centre.
“There are some clear messages in here about people’s changing shopping habits and we are already looking at some excellent practice elsewhere to help shape our approach.
“That said, we must also do what we can to protect and enhance the retail, food and beverage environment in the town centre.”
The study was carried out using random sampling in order to avoid undue weight being given to a particular sector of the community.
It revealed that when it comes to convenience goods – items bought regularly – 96.5 per cent of the money Northamptonians spend is within the borough.
With regard to comparison goods – higher-cost items bought less frequently – the figure was 80.2 per cent, with around 10 per cent going to Milton Keynes.
Focusing on just footwear and clothing, Northampton claimed a 48.8 per cent share while 12.2 per cent went to Milton Keynes and 9.5 per cent to Rushden Lakes.
In terms of leisure, the most popular venues for health and fitness, cinema, restaurants, tenpin bowling, bingo pubs, bars and nightclubs – along with cultural facilities – were in Northampton.