'Biggest increase in national retail sales since 1995 bodes well for Leighton Buzzard High Street'

'Local independent businesses have done remarkably well, coming up with new initiatives and showing hard work and tenacity'

Sunday, 1st August 2021, 11:12 pm
Updated Sunday, 1st August 2021, 11:16 pm

The chairman of LB First is celebrating the biggest increase in national retail sales since 1995, hoping that the news gives a lift to the Leighton Buzzard community.

In a report published by the British Retail Consortium, it was revealed that the period May 30 – July 3 had been the best quarter on record, with UK retail sales increasing by 17 per cent on a like-for-like basis from June 2019, when they had decreased 1.6 per cent from the preceding year.

Meanwhile, on a total basis, sales increased by 13.1 per cent in June (Yo2Y), against a decline of 1.3 per cent in June 2019 (YoY).

Leighton Buzzard High Street. Photo: Jane Russell.

Talking about positive results locally, Gennaro Borrelli chairman of LB First, told the LBO: "We know that the dwell time has increased in the town centre, and we know that for April, May June, the best days in each month have always been the market days, Tuesdays and Saturdays, averaging just over 6,000 visitors.

"On average the figures for June showed that the footfall for each day in June was about 4,000 visitors per day.

"Obviously, we had a busy Independents' Day at the beginning of July, and I am confident that the figures will be good again."

In the British Retail Consortium's Report, Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium, said: "The second quarter of 2021 saw exceptional growth as the gradual unlocking of the UK economy encouraged a release of pent-up demand built up over previous lockdowns. In June, while growth in food sales begun to slow, non-food sales were bolstered by growing consumer confidence and the continued unleashing of consumer demand."

Ms Dickinson also sighted UK-based holidays as another factor, and noted that "the start of Euro 2020 provided a boost for TVs, snack food and beer".

Mr Borelli added: "I think we can keep the momentum going and we are doing a lot of things, and I know that the Town Council has been doing what it can in terms of events.

"There's lots to look forward to this summer - the Films in the Paddock, Street Food Heroes, and lots of venues are back open, such as Ollie Vees, Crooked Crow Bar and The Golden Bell, offering live music.

"There has also been interest from traders who are looking to come to Leighton Buzzard [for the markets] and we've had customers coming to shop in town from Dunstable and Barton-le-Clay. More people are now working from home and coming into the high street."

Gennaro has also taken a keen interest in the publication of the East of England High Street Survey (June 2021), which is investigating what can be done at a local level to help regenerate and revitalise our high streets.

The study found that live music, more outdoor seating, open street theatre, street food, specialist markets and community events, would all encourage more people to visit their high streets.

Meanwhile, the survey noted that "parking is still a major barrier in attracting people to use our town centres" and that "the growth of online retail has directly impacted on the decline of

stores on our high street."

However, Gennaro welcomed the recent news that Leighton-Linslade Town Council is pushing for a three-month trial of free parking in all town centre car parks (read more in the link below), while LB First is planning an exciting initiative to encourage online sales for Leighton-Linslade businesses, with an e-commerce platform coming soon for the Shop Local LB website.

Gennaro concluded: "Local independent businesses have done remarkably well, coming up with new initiatives and showing hard work and tenacity.

"Little Ducklings, a children's clothes shop has now opened in town and there are more new shops coming. People have confidence in starting a business in Leighton Buzzard. Let's keep this positive vibe going."