While Tesco aims to downsize to an Express, Sainsbury’s, which has been in the town for half a century, is not reopening another store in Northampton.
The Business Improvement District (BID) – who are paid for by local businesses through a business rate levy to promote the town – has said more people than ever are shopping from home.
Mark Mullen, BID operations manager for Northampton town centre BID, said: “How to manage and address closing businesses, vacant units and the challenges of COVID are questions being asked up and down the country by all town and city centres. Because this pandemic is so new to us all and the situation is changing so rapidly it is impossible to try to predict the future for any town or city centre.
“Some of the trends which had started prior to COVID have simply accelerated, such as the increase of shopping on-line and the desire to use town centres for things other than simply ‘shopping’.”
The departure of Sainsbury’s and Tesco Metro comes as other big units including BHS, Marks & Spencer, Thornton’s, Clinton’s, Card Market, River Island and Caffe Nero also stand empty.
Mr Mullen added: “What we can say is that we are – working with our partners through the Northampton Taskforce Group and Northampton Forward – continuing to look to the future. We continue to plan and while we can’t predict with any accuracy what may happen next in Northampton town centre we can give a view.
“Through Partnerships for Better Businesses UK who manage Northampton BID and develop BIDs across the UK we are aware that many other town and city centres are facing the same challenges but also seeing the same opportunities as those in Northampton.
“A factor of the early lockdown in restricting people’s movements has meant that people who used to travel further afield are now more likely to support and visit their local town centre. We are also hearing – although the data is to be verified – that there are changing patterns of expenditure. People, who previously travelled further afield, are now choosing to spend in their local town centre. Town centres are increasingly becoming hubs for the community of everyone who lives in and around the town, as people choose to stay local and this is an opportunity for Northampton.”
A council report, published on Monday, by councillor Tim Hadland reveals that footfall across the town centre and market square is increasing slowly, however it is still around 40 per cent down on the previous year.
The report said: “This is consistent with the falls in car parking volumes as these are also around 40% less compared to last year.
“The council continues to work with the BID and the county council over the plans for the opening of the high street and attracting people back into the town.”
Steps that have been taken to entice shoppers back into town include COVID-19 precautionary signs, licensing measures have been eased and money has been put behind active travel to create more road space for cyclists and pedestrians.
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