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Retail joy as town’s rise in shopper footfall flouts national trend

December saw shoppers revert to online shopping and home delivery. But visitors have returned in force to the town centre, 8.8% more than in 2017 and compared to a fall of 0.4% across the UK as a whole.

Visitor numbers peaked on the last weekend of the month, up by 40% on the Sunday and by 24% on the Friday. Saturday remains the peak shopping day, said Bedford Business Improvement District director Christina Rowe.

“Bedford rallied in the last weekend before Christmas with people shopping for all those last minute items,” she added. “Like all towns, we had been hit earlier in December with the on-line shopping trend, but now Christmas is over, the visitors are back .

“Free parking is an element, but that has to be promoted as part of an attractive offer which is exactly what the Love Bedford brand does for town centre businesses.”

  • Pictured: Christina Rowe, operations director of BedfordBID.

The Love Bedford campaign is financed by the BedfordBID through contributions by town centre levy-payers.

The BID was one of the first in the country when it was set up in 2005. Bedford has pioneered a range of activities which other BIDs now follow, such as its customer research programme run with then research organisation Shopper Anonymous which contributes to the BID’s long-term vision for the town centre’s growth and prosperity.

Ms Rowe said: “Its success is one of many and well documented with visitor numbers bucking the national trend as a result of multi-media campaigns BedfordBID has developed over the years.

"Understanding who our potential customers are, is part of a unique initiative the BedfordBID embarked upon.” 

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