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A Regional Shopping Centre

Brighton Square
in The Lanes

Shopping, it is said, is the most popular hobby, even sport, in Britain. It is also an important part of the city's "visitor economy". Towns and cities compete for the mobile shopper. Brighton has long outclassed its local neighbours: Worthing, Eastbourne and Crawley. Crawley has long attempted to coax Brightonians to sample the pleasures of its County Mall shopping centre (opened in 1992), even advertising its delights on the city's buses. This works for those whose bottom line shopping attraction is cheap parking.

Brighton's success as a shopping centre has left it struggling with problems of traffic congestion. The upside - from the point of view of the city council and the private car parks - is that the market for parking spaces is buoyant.

As far back as 1998 Brighton topped the shopping league for seaside resorts, beating Blackpool into second place. Bournemouth came a poor eigth. But the city's ambitions (it was still a humble town then) could not be satisfied in the seaside league. The city by the sea wanted to play in shopping's first division.

The redevelopment of Churchill Square in the late 90s, of the Jubilee Street city library quarter in the early years of this decade, of the New England Quarter today (the former Brighton station goodsyard), and many major developments in the pipeline: all these have taken the city into the first division. And in 2004 it was 'promoted' into the top twenty players, ranked at 18th place, by Experian, the global business survey outfit.


 

The city (or at least its retailers) now sees itself as playing in the same league as the likes of Bluewater in Kent.

Yet the city doesn't even have a single department store, apart from the rather dull Co-operative store in London Road. (I agree that the building has an attractive facade.) Yes, and I know, it has M&S, BHS, Debenhams, and Primark. But the M&S store does not carry the full M&S range of clothing.

Hannington's, the grand old lady of the city's shopping offer, its very own, singular, and distinctive department store, closed some years ago - not because it wasn't profitable, or so I was told by a senior member of staff, but because the younger generation of the family who owned the store had no interest in staying in the business. So now, after many long years of redevelopment, the ground floor of the old store is a line of 'luxury' shops. But they struggle, I think; there's just not enough on offer.

But we don't need a department store, I hear the small, independent traders of the North Laine cry. There's us: "300 shops, 37 cafes, 22 pubs, 4 theatres, 2 museums, an award winning library and probably the best selection of small independent retailers on the South coast." That's what makes the city unique, plus around 400 cafes and restaurants in total, plus the promenade just a short walk away through The Lanes, whose small streets and twittens preserve the street layout of the old fishing town of Brighthelmston.

Shopping Centre League Table
Centre Name
2004 2003
West End (London)
1
1
Glasgow
2
2
Birmingham
3
13
Leeds
4
3
Nottingham
5
4
Manchester
6
5
Southampton
7
7
Cardiff
8
6
Norwich
9
9
Bluewater (Kent)
10
10
Chester
11
11
Reading
12
8
Liverpool
13
18
Newcastle
14
22
Leicester
15
14
Edinburgh
16
14
Kingston upon Thames
17
12
Brighton
18
21
Merry Hill (nr Dudley)
19
16
Meadowhall (Sheffield)
20
23
Source: Experian

 

The North Laine

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