I saw this headline when I walked past a copy of the Rugby Advertiser at the weekend, and now that they have put the report up on their website I had a chance to read it properly.
Essentially, the suggestion is that ‘more affluent shoppers’ are not catered for. I’m not sure what that means, really. Yes there are a number of cheap shops, a growing number of charity shops, and the main in-town supermarkets are Asda and Morrisons, which compete on price rather than quality.
What I find, however, is that Rugby lacks mid-market shops and certain sectors. We have one independent bookshop, Hunts. Other than that if you want a book it’s WHSmiths or a discount shop in the Clock Towers. While there are two computer games shops (Game and Gamestation, which are owned by the same company) and a couple of places to buy second hand games, there isn’t a proper record/CD shop.
Some companies have moved out of the town centre to the outlets off of Leicester Road, which are reachable only by road for most people and reduce the footfall in the town. If you have to drive across town, it’s not much more of an effort to drive out to Coventry which has a much wider selection of shops.
But what I think really does the town centre a disservice is that it is a ghost-town on a Sunday. Big chains don’t bother to open (such as Boots), and so people are less likely to go in. As a result, I suspect that other shops that might trade on a Sunday don’t bother because of reduced custom, which is only going to become more of an issue as more follow the trend.
If the town centre wants to attract ‘affluent people of a working age’, then how about being open on a day when working people are more likely to be free to shop?
Oh, and what is the Borough Council’s approach to helping the town centre recover from the recession? Well, in 2009 there were all kinds of ideas trialled, like reduced rates for new shops, assisting with revamps of shop-fronts, and so on.
In 2010 they shelved those in favour of allocating £50K to improving the Christmas lights. I don’t go into Rugby town centre to look at the lights (especially not during a weekend in July). When I did see the lights last year, they looked not much different to the ones from the previous winter. So did our money get spent wisely? How much did it help the town centre to get over the effect of the VAT hike and recession?