Saturday slowdown hits high street

Littlehampton town centre
Littlehampton town centre

IT USED to be the day retailers relied on.

But an emerging trend has seen traders reporting business being slower on Saturdays than any other day.

Worthing Town Centre Initiative is investigating the development, which may strengthen the argument for extending Sunday trading hours.

Town centre manager Sharon Clarke said: “Traders are saying they are doing well but doing well Monday to Friday and Sundays. Saturday, which is normally the strongest trading day is becoming a lot quieter day and we are only starting to look at why that is.

“I would be in favour of extending Sunday trading hours. If it is becoming the new Saturday, we need to support that to make up for the losses.”

Mrs Clarke said as shopping is increasingly becoming a leisure experience, more people may be using Saturdays to spend with friends in a social capacity.

As a result, the town’s retailers are suffering.

She said Saturday footfall is still strong but visitors were not spending as much.

Paul O’Brien, of I Love Candy, in Bath Place, Worthing, said: “It’s definitely changed, Sundays are becoming busier and busier, whilst Saturdays are down slightly, although event Saturdays are always up.

“Shopping has now become almost unpredictable from day to day.”

Adur District Council leader Gill Brown agreed trading had become unpredictable and the authority was actively running events on Saturdays to boost trade.

She said: “Littlehampton has seen some improvements in Saturday trading over the past year, but it is unpredictable. We are building up the number of town centre events and markets taking place in the high street on Saturdays. These do help to boost Saturday footfall.

“With its diverse range of stalls and performers to entertain shoppers, the monthly artisan market is proving a real draw. Arun District Council is always on the lookout for market operators and event organisers with ideas to liven up the high street.”

The Saturday decline has not been experienced everywhere, however.

Adur town centres coordinator David Steadman has not heard of any issues but stressed the Adur offer was different to Worthing’s, with a higher percentage of independent traders.

He said: “I’m not aware of any significant decline in Saturday trade. We have regular markets that bring people into the town centres.

“Most of the businesses in Adur are smaller independents and most do not trade on Sundays. As a former clothing retailer who employed staff, longer hours on Sunday could be very difficult and not bring the rewards.

“It would be spreading the hours of business to take the same amount of money.”

Mrs Brown believes independent retailers would not welcome changes to Sunday trading hours.

She said: “The relaxation, if agreed, would potentially favour the larger supermarkets and out of town shopping at the expense of smaller businesses. The small independent retailers are really crucial to our towns in the Arun District.

“Although extended hours could provide more employment, I am concerned at what impact this new legislation might have.”

Despite Saturday struggles, Worthing town centre footfall in June was up 10.7 per cent on the previous year - an increase Mrs Clarke attributes to the weather.

The year to date footfall has increased by 5.1 per cent, compared to a drop of 2.1 per cent nationwide.