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Business Forum

News - 6 May 2011

Slow recovery rolls on but Brighton has a fighting chance

How is Brighton’s retail sector coping with the economic downturn? The Business Forum has a number of ways of monitoring the economic health of the city and Brighton has been keeping its head above water and well ahead of the national averages.

However, it has been tough for some businesses and even for those that have been thriving there has been a nagging fear that the axe is poised and no one is really safe.

Apart from consumer spend, which is down other indicators of success are footfall and vacancy. Footfall has fluctuated over the last few months sometimes up sometimes down and often in step with city centre events like the Food Festival and Shopping Festival which gave businesses a much needed boost in April.

The vacancy rates show an underlying stability with the number of empty shops in the city centre falling slightly in the six months from October 2010 to March 2011. The figure is down from 7.9% to 7.7% overall. This is not enough of an improvement to starting popping champagne corks but it is better than an increase.

Fluctuations across the city were fairly marginal with no over-riding trends other than the on-going decline in Preston Street. Vacancy is now over 20% (21.7%) in this street. The national average is about 14% and most other streets in Brighton are well below this.

It is very much hoped that, by including Preston Street in the newly expanded Business Improvement District (BID) the street will begin to thrive again.

The fact that retailers have voted in favour of renewing the BID is also a good sign for the future of the retail economy as it will ensure businesses have the best possible chance of making a success of the Christmas season. The BID will pay for Christmas lights and a launch event to draw people in for Christmas shopping. Without it there would be no lights at all in the city centre this Christmas.

The BID will also pay for on-street security and dressing the city for summer. This will create a festive atomosphere throughout the centre for The Spring Harvest Festival, The Shopping Festival, The May Festival. Pride and all the summer events that follow. Bunting and floral displays will be a key part of the displays and this will begin in the summer of 2012.

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