Barnsley’s thriving town centre is bucking the national trend with 76% of its shops proving successful and surviving beyond their third birthday.
The impressive survival rate of shops in Barnsley is a marked improvement from the 44% survival rate recorded in 2017. It has helped to cement Barnsley as the sixth-best town in the UK for post-COVID recovery in terms of footfall and spending.
Barnsley Council's business support throughout the pandemic and regeneration of the town centre has played a huge role in the sustained success of popular shops such as Closet Queen, Dolly’s Desserts, Marshmallow Blends and Blackford Sports, which have all survived past their third birthday.
In recent years, Barnsley has made strategic investments in its town centre, including the major modernisation of Barnsley Markets in 2018, opening Library @ the Lightbox in 2019 and launching The Glass Works in 2021.
This redevelopment, alongside a packed programme of free family-friendly events, has been a great success – attracting major retail brands such as Flannels, River Island, TK Maxx and Next. Footfall in December 2022 was a staggering 46% higher than the same month in 2021 and the total annual footfall was over six million in 2022.
Overall, the investments have created around 1,100 full-time jobs, as well as the combination of new, existing and temporary construction jobs throughout their completion.
Barnsley’s leisure offer is also booming and is now the biggest draw on the high street, having increased by 2.8% since 2017 - faster than the GB average at 2.2%. The additions of Superbowl UK and Cineworld, alongside the likes of Fridays, Coffee Boy, The Botanist and Nando’s, has revitalised the town centre and helped support new and existing businesses.
Cllr Robert Frost, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: "The success of 2022 has helped drive our local economy forward, despite the struggles many are facing due to the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
“I am proud that we have been able to invest in our town centre and continue supporting our local businesses and communities over the last few years. There is a real sense of pride, resilience, and positivity coursing through Barnsley right now.”
Kevin Parkin, owner of Blackfords Barnsley, a specialised team and work-wear supplier located in the Victorian Arcade, said: “The regeneration of Barnsley town centre has been fantastic. We've definitely seen a big increase in footfall which can only mean good things for our business.
“I really don’t know where a lot of businesses would be without the investment. I know it’s been a real boost to a lot of companies across many different sectors, and there’s a real positive atmosphere in the centre at the moment.”
Phillip Potter, owner of The Spectacle Shop opticians in Barnsley Arcade, added: “The recent regeneration has really helped put Barnsley back on the map and we’re excited about the impact this can have on our business moving forwards. People are travelling into the town centre from further afield and many of our customers are now from outside of Barnsley. We hear lots of really positive comments about how much cleaner, more pleasant and attractive it is now."
It’s not all about the town centre though, the Council continues its investments in local high streets across the borough through its Principal Towns and Local Village Centres Investment Programme. This estimated £35m project aims to improve local economies in six principal towns and 10 local village centres.
Additionally, £10.2m was awarded to Barnsley following a successful bid to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund. The Council plans to use it to launch Barnsley Futures, an initiative aimed at improving cultural and wellbeing facilities for young people in the town centre. The programme’s primary goal is to create a better future for the next generation by enriching their lives and promoting a conducive environment for growth and ambition.
Other future town centre plans include the Seam, which aims to create an urban village using creative landscape and building design and digital technology to create a safe, smart and sustainable living and working environment.