Stafford's Riverside 'caused thousands of shoppers to leave Guildhall'
A shopping centre lost thousands of customers in the wake of a new £100m retail complex opening its doors - but bosses have vowed the future remains bright.
The eagerly awaited Riverside arrived in Stafford in August last year with big name chains M&S, River Island and New Look among the first to welcome excited shoppers, while clothes giant Primark swiftly followed.
But the impact was felt across town with footfall falling at the Guildhall Shopping Centre by eight per cent to around 98,000 people a week, it has now been revealed.
It was not helped by the fact that the Arcadia Group which runs three of its biggest shops Wallis, Evans and Top Shop, decided to move out of the historic venue, which marks its 30th anniversary next year, and directly into the shiny new complex.
- WATCH: First look around the Riverside shopping centre
But centre manager George Demtriou has told the Express & Star the decline has now halted and they hope to increase visitors back up to more than 100,000 a week.
He confirmed several new retailers were on the way, on the back of Yours ladies fashion opening last week, and stated the recent re-opening of the Kingsmead car park would also help boost the numbers.
Mr Demetriou said: "Our footfall figures are in line with last year, they have not dropped further.
"They were down eight per cent last year and we have held that.
"Once the new Riverside opened up they dropped but they have not got any worse.
"We anticipated there would be a fall especially as they took a number of our retailers, we knew customers would move down there.
"But we are where we thought we would be and now people are getting used to the status quo we hope they will start moving back up here.
"People being able to park at Kinsgmead will also help footfall. It is a bit early yet but once Aldi opens and it is in full swing we anticipate it will help enormously.
"Stafford town still has a huge amount of potential."
Mr Demetriou also confirmed a £500,000 redevelopment, which is the biggest in the Guildhall's history, was finally set to get under way after being delayed for around 12 months.
The improvements include a rebranding, redesigned units to attract bigger retailers, ceilings lifted higher and new LED lighting.
The Guildhall was first opened in 1988 with the car park and market hall following a year later and the main shopping mall arriving in 1991.