THE manager of a town centre shopping precinct is celebrating his first six months at the helm with impressive footfall.

Martin Leatherdale took over Lion Walk shopping centre in Colchester in June when he says the retail development had hit “troubled waters”.

High Streets across the country have seen footfall drop by 17 per cent between 2009 and 2019 principally due to competition from out of town and internet shopping.

And at Lion Walk shopping centre it was in decline during the first half of the year, down 70,000 for the same period the year before.

But after implementing a number of initiatives Mr Leatherdale said Lion Walk ended the year on a high.

He said: “In the second half of the year we executed rapid reactive plans which grew footfall by 80,000.

“We finished 2019 completely turning the centre around, delivering positive footfall growth for the whole year.

“We have now delivered four consecutive months of positive footfall growth in October, November, December and January.”

Lion Walk shopping centre’s positive performance was summed up by the success of the annual Christmas lights switch on which drew 38,000 people and brought big stars like X Factor judge Louis Walsh and TOWIE’s singing sensation Megan Mckenna.

Several new retailers have opened in the centre including Muffin Break, Nanna’s Yarn Barn and Beaux Cheveux.

Mr Leatherdale said there were hopes of more new shops on the horizon.

Colchester Council’s market also moved to the shopping centre thanks to a successful partnership between the two organisations.

Early plans for 2020 are already in place and Mr Leatherdale says the centre is planning to show big sporting events live on screens, host more musical acts and a mini festival.

The toilets are also set for a full refurbishment.

Mr Leatherdale said: “In six months we’ve gone from a place where people were leaving and shops closing, to now a place where we are welcoming more and more customers, retailers taking more money and opening new stores with shop keepers queuing up for a presence in Red Lion Yard.”

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