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Shoppers loyal to Shrewsbury's stores but urge improvements

By Nick Humphreys | Shrewsbury | News | Published:

What does the future hold for Shrewsbury's Pride Hill, Darwin and Riverside centres?

The Shropshire Star spoke with shoppers in Shrewsbury to get their views on the town's shopping centres

Footfall in towns appears to be returning sluggishly since the easing of coronavirus restrictions, demonstrated by a quiet Pride Hill in Shrewsbury on a drizzly July morning.

Data from the British Retail Consortium revealed shopping districts saw a 49.6 per cent decrease in activity compared to the same week last year.

Shrewsbury's Pride Hill Shopping Centre

Super Saturday didn't do much to kick-start the ringing of tills and the spending of cash, with only a small increase in footfall reported.

It comes as it is announced that the valuation of Pride Hill, Riverside and Darwin shopping centres has plummeted to £17.5 million, after Shropshire Council bought them for £51 million in January 2018.

It's been a tough year for businesses in the town, with the Covid-19 lockdown being the misery compiler after the disastrous February floods. So how do we get people back into town to shop?

English teacher Christian Toms feels that it's not all doom and gloom. He moved to Shrewsbury from Hertfordshire to be closer to his family, and "fell in love" with the town. "There's no place down south quite like Shrewsbury," he said.

Christian Toms, 27, from Shrewsbury

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On the shopping experience, the 27-year-old said: "I don't feel too apprehensive about it. The shops have social distancing measures in place and hand sanitiser, and people seem to be respectful of the rules.

"It's good for people's mental health to be able to get back out into the shops as well.

"I do most of my shopping here. I'd rather shop here than in Birmingham or Telford. I wouldn't feel comfortable shopping in Birmingham with how busy it is at the moment."

He added: "In terms of the shopping centres, I think they're okay but I went into the lower part of the Darwin Centre and it is very dark down there without any windows. It does feel a bit like you're entering the third circle of hell. It feels particularly depressing down there."

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Aaron Friend and girlfriend Rhiannon Williams have found themselves turning to the web for most of their shopping needs since lockdown, and feel the amount of empty shops makes Shrewsbury less appealing than it could be.

Rhiannon Williams and Aaron Friend

Rhiannon, 23, said: "We've been doing most of our shopping online, we didn't leave the house much. I still feel a bit uncomfortable to just go out window shopping. If I don't need something, I don't go."

Aaron, 24, added: "Shrewsbury is better than most places, but it's not the best place to go for shopping. There is a large amount of empty shops. I wonder if they should just move it into one centre. It's been like that for a while and the coronavirus hasn't helped."

Musician Andrew Chapple was full of praise for shop staff and doesn't know why Shrewsbury folk would want to shop anywhere else.

Andrew Chapple from Shrewsbury

The 35-year-old from Belle Vue said: "I'm happy that the shops are back open. I think the Darwin Shopping Centre is the best in the UK. The quality of the staff is the best.

"I'm glad to see the police around to keep people safe and that people are following social distancing. I think Shrewsbury is a good place to go shopping. I don't see why people wouldn't want to shop here."

Annette Aston and daughter Claire, from Copthorne, feel the experience of the British tradition of a good, old queue has been enhanced as people have been friendlier to one another since social distancing came in.

Annette and Claire Aston from Shrewsbury

Annette said: "You do have to queue a bit longer because of social distancing. You've just got to be careful and avoid places where you think it might be too crowded."

Claire added: "I think people are a lot nicer in the queues now, they've got used to it."

The ladies do hope to see more retailers filling the empty units in Shrewsbury though. Annette added: "A lot of shops have left Shrewsbury and then started up in Telford, which is annoying. There are a lot of empty shops in out shopping centres. We should be a bit more ambitious to try and get more shops in the town."

Nick Humphreys

By Nick Humphreys
Senior Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star focusing on Shrewsbury.

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