The first phase of a half a million pound project to revamp a Sleaford shopping precinct is complete, but some businesses report that they suffered trading losses while work was carried out.
The Riverside Precinct is owned by Lincolnshire Co-operative, and James Butcher from agents Banks Long & Co said: “We’re pleased that phase one of improvements to the Riverside Shopping Centre is complete. Some last checks are taking place now to assess the work and make sure everything’s in order.
“The scheme will see a total of £500,000 invested in rejuvenating the centre, and now phase one is complete, we look forward to seeing the project help give retailers in the area an extra boost by bringing in more shoppers.
“We removed the bandstand and old canopies to help the centre feel more spacious, and made shop fronts more visible by taking away colonnades. New rendering was also added on the southern side of the centre.”
Mr Butcher said they were still in talks to bring big name stores into the larger units.
He said: “We’ve had positive interest in the scheme, including talks with a major national retailer. We’re keen to speak with other retailers interested in taking up space, including some smaller units available now, as we continue improving the centre. Once talks are at a suitable stage we can then begin planning the second phase of work in more detail.”
Shop tenant Peter Spackman of Dee’s Gifts was on the whole pleased with the work so far. He said: “Phase one is really good, but there are teething troubles as a result of it.”
He was raising these points with the landlords.
But he added: “I like the new look, it makes the shops look so much brighter and more modern, I am really impressed. It has raised footfall dramatically and a lot of customers are coming in having not seen us before.”
Mr Spackman would not welcome suggestions of moving the town’s market into the precinct as he felt it could make it look untidy while bringing added competition. He would prefer to see a major cafe chain with tables outside.
He said trading had been tough during the five months of refurbishment work, explaining: “We were offered a month’s free rent for the disruption but the actual loss we suffered was more like 12 months. Trade was down by up to 90 per cent as our shop was totally obscured and people thought we were closed.”
Mr Butcher commented: “We’ve been in touch with the existing retailers at the centre, who we’d like to thank for their patience while the work has taken place, and offered support.”