Morecambe has been praised as ‘a great town and a great shopping experience’ by a leading firm of mystery shoppers.
But more than half the town’s shopkeepers admitted takings were down year-on-year– and shoppers said staff showed little community spirit.
Cheshire-based retail experts Storechecker gave Morecambe a 72% score – the same as Birmingham – after visiting and rating 50 Morecambe shops, pubs and restaurants.
But the survey revealed customer service in many town centre shops is “below par” and sales skills are “weak”.
Some staff were found to lack “energy, passion and enthusiasm” and displayed poor knowledge of the local area.
As part of the in-depth survey, commissioned by Morecambe Town Team, Sussex market researchers The Retail Group also quizzed 75 Morecambe shopkeepers across the town centre and the West End for their thoughts on the town.
The survey revealed:
*60% of Morecambe shops reported takings were down year-on-year
*Discount stores and specialist shops are performing better than last year
*49% of shopkeepers believe Morecambe ‘doesn’t have any strengths’
*62% of shoppers in Morecambe are female, 38% are male
*The majority of shoppers are local people shopping in town because “it’s easy”
*Most Morecambe shopkeepers don’t target students or young people, instead aiming mainly at working people or families
*Morecambe’s main weakness is a lack of variety of shops and big-name ‘destination stores’
*The town’s shopping environment, ease of access and shopper/leisure facilities are all “poor”
*73% of shopkeepers have no plans to move from their present location
The mystery shopper visits were carried out in January and February this year at 37 shops and 13 dining establishments.
Morecambe shops scored highest on products and pricing, venue appearance and staff image, which were rated “very strong”.
But only 10 of the businesses received full marks on local knowledge, with 14 scoring 50% or below.
The Storechecker report said: “Staff don’t see raising visitors’ time in Morecambe as their responsibility. They need to develop a community spirit.
“Many businesses in Morecambe are losing profits through weak sales.”
Staff were also told they needed to be more welcoming to all customers and watch out for shopper ‘buying signals’.
The best performing diners were The Chieftain pub, The Grove cafe on Pedder Street, Trawlers fish and chip shop at Pleasureland amusement arcade, and Thai Rose restaurant.
The average overall score for pubs and restaurants was 80%, 8% better than retail.
Storechecker also recently surveyed Worcester and Liverpool shopping centres, rating them 84% and 82% respectively.
The Retail Group shopkeepers’ survey revealed a fifth of Morecambe shoppers were put off by high car parking prices.
The average time running a retail business in Morecambe is 18 years and shops receive an average of 600 customers per week.
Sixty one per cent of retailers said they are trading in line with regional trends, with 53% saying their turnover matches their company’s national average.
Half of shopkeepers said their customers typically spend no more than £15.
Eighty three per cent said existing trading hours suit shoppers and 68% said they didn’t need help with staff training, whilst 73% said their staffing levels had not changed from last year.
The market research was paid for by Morecambe Town Team out of the town’s ‘Portas Pilot’ scheme funds.
Morecambe was awarded £100,000 and status as a flagship high street in 2012 in a Government scheme backed by retail guru Mary Portas.
The best performing shops in the ‘mystery shopper’ survey were:
Plaza Blinds (Pedder Street) 100%
Brown’s Carpets (Lines Street) 100%
Sandwich Stop (Pedder Street) 99%
Tagues (decorating supplies, Queen Street) 98%
Young Ones (children’s clothes shop, Marine Road Central) 97%
Fashion Direct (Euston Road) 96%
Woods (lingerie shop, Marine Road Central) 95%
Fancy That (fancy dress shop, Pedder Street) 94%
Card stall, Festival Market (Marine Road Central) 92%
Footwear stall, Festival Market (Marine Road Central) 92%
Spangles (ladies fashion, Euston Road) 91%
Marions (ladies fashion, Marine Road Central) 91%