Christmas cheer in short supply for Rotherham town centre businesses

SHOPPERS have turned their back on Rotherham town centre when it comes to Christmas bargains — and many of the traders don’t blame them.

Our photo shows the deserted scene in High Street at 1pm last Saturday, reflecting an Advertiser reader poll in which three-quarters of readers said they had not bought any presents in town this year.

Several business owners said they were struggling and the festive period had been anything but when it came to custom.

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The owner of Wellgate’s Mega Computers, who would only give his name as Malik, said he was struggling after 24 years in business.

“I’m the only surviving computer store in Rotherham town and there is no business,” he added.

 “I’m only here because I have to pay my mortgage — if I was younger I would leave.”

Another trader, who would not be named, blamed the council for the decline, saying: “People in charge don’t realise how bad it’s got. 

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“I look out and see a lot of empty shops — there are busier villages.”

Both traders said the cost and availability of parking was a factor in the lack of trade.

Malik added: “Customers, particularly the elderly, are afraid of driving into town for fear of recieving a parking ticket.

“One of my customers came in to collect a laptop and was ticketed after just 30 seconds, he told me: ‘I am never coming here again’ — what am I supposed to do about that?”

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Danny Boyd, owner of Wrays butchers, said his business had fared well but Christmas was always a good time of year for them.

Mr Boyd said his central location and cheap prices helped, but conceded times were hard for many town centre businesses.

“There are no big names to draw anyone in, shops are closing down, there are no gift shops and most people would much rather go to Meadowhall for their weekly shop,” he said.

One bright spot was the flourishing fortunes of new independent electronics store Entertainment Station in Riverside Precinct.

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Co-owners Richard Lawson and Becky Waghorne, who moved to Rotherham from Grimsby, said they were benefiting from the temporary bus station operating from Forge island for solid passing trade.

It is not just the town centre where traders said times were tough, with one Wickersley shopkeeper admtting online shopping was having an impact.

Meadowhall was also responsible for a fall in high street trade, he said, adding: “It’s dry, it’s indoors and it has a wide range of shops.

“Overall, for Christmas, people are more likely to go there.”

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Rotherham Borough Council’s acting assistant director for planning, regeneration and transport, Bronwen Knight, said: “We are proud of our independent shops in the town centre and with just a few days left until Christmas, and shops open on Sunday, there is still time to do some last minute Christmas shopping. 

“It is fantastic to see thousands of people utilising our free parking spaces over the Christmas period and the new tram-train providing an additional travel option for customers and visitors to the town centre. 

“With our town centre masterplan repositioning the town centre as a great place to live, with hundreds of new homes planned, and a re-focus on leisure, we are looking forward to many new things in 2019.”


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