Worthing’s town centre manager has explained why there has not been a late-night shopping event in the town this Christmas season.
Sharon Clarke, of, Worthing Town Centre Initiative said that while some shops had decided to extend their opening hours in the lead up to Christmas, no specific late-night shopping event had been planned.
This is because not enough shops were willing to stay open late, she said, due to low customer turnout during late-night shopping events in the past.
“We have tried to convince shops to stay open so that we can do a big event but unfortunately we can’t get the shops to stay open,” she said.
“If someone comes down for a late-night shopping event they expect to be able to shop.”
For the last two winters, the Worthing Town Centre Initiative has invested £15,000 in late-night shopping events – with S Club performing in the town centre in 2016 and a fireworks event in 2017.
However Mrs Clarke said only about 15 stores opened late for the event last year, adding: “For that amount of investment, it’s not really good value for money.”
Late-night shopping events are expensive because of the need for lighting, security and health and safety measures, she added.
The S Club gig in 2016 brought about 6,000 people into the town centre, but the problem was that they did not stay and shop after the event was over, Mrs Clarke said.
“The thing is, it needs the people to support it,” she said.
She described the situation as ‘a bit of a catch 22’. “The stores need the people, and the people need the stores,” she said. “Unfortunately they haven’t been meeting up.”
For this reason, the Worthing Town Centre Initiative planned a day-time event to draw people into Worthing this year, during which the shops would be open anyway.
The Worthing Winter Festival took place on Saturday, December 8, and Sunday, December 9, though unfortunately the weather was not very good, Mrs Clarke said.
More late-night events in the town would be organised in the future if at least 20 to 25 shops would agree to stay open late, she said.
Looking forward, Mrs Clarke said plans for more flats in the centre of town would help bring more activity and footfall to the high street, which would have a positive effect on businesses.
Plans for 45 flats above the Beales buildings in Worthing have been approved, along with a scheme for eight new homes above the former Mothercare site in South Street.
Proposals for 26 flats above the former Poundland site in Worthing’s Montague Street have also been submitted to the council.
“The more residents you get in the town, we will have more activity,” Mrs Clarke said.
“Where you can see increased numbers of people, the shops will start to see there is a demand.
“It will happen, but it’s a slow burn.”