THE success of Chester’s Free After Three car parking initiative has ensured city centre retailers bucked the trend when it came to riding out the recession.
New figures have shown while many UK cities recorded a double-digit percentage drop in footfall through their centres over the past year, Chester recorded a 1% rise for 2009.
Richard Bolton, of Bolton Birch chartered surveyors, said Chester had coped with the turbulent economy better than expected.
He said: “The year 2009 has been a far better year for the retail agency than was perhaps feared back in late 2008.
“There has been good demand for retail premises in Chester from both local and national multiple retailers, and although in some of the more secondary locations landlords have had to consider rent reductions, many new lettings have been agreed.
“Chester appears to have coped well with the change in the economic climate compared with many other retailing centres in the region.”
Chester city co-ordinator Stephen Wundke said the figures were an encouraging sign for the future as the economic recovery continues.
He said: “We think the figures are a strong performance by the city and one that shows all of our partners are helping to win the battle.
“Footfall after 3pm rose by 23% since the Free After Three scheme started, and it has remained the same since then, because car parks are now full up – and it’s local people who are using these car parks, which is great.”
Mr Wundke added this year’s Chestival arts and entertainments extravaganza will provide a huge boost to Chester with an estimated £10m boost for the city’s economy.
“We recognise we have a long way to go and this is the start of the journey, but with a huge cultural programme planned for 2010 we think this could be a very exciting year for stakeholders and residents.”