by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Rushmere Shopping Centre and Retail Park had its busiest bank holiday weekend on record in May as more than 136,000 visitors returned after restrictions on non-essential retail outlets were lifted on Friday April 30. One of Northern Ireland’s largest and most successful retail destinations, Rushmere said daily visitor numbers from Friday through to close of business on Monday were similar to those seen in the last few days before Christmas in a normal trading year.

Out-of-town retail centres and parks have performed relatively strongly compared with high streets in the last year and are recovering faster than any other type of shopping destination, according to a recent Springboard analysis.

Rushmere Shopping Centre manager, Martin Walsh, said:

“Though we had been anticipating a busy return last weekend, we were delighted to record an unprecedented number of shoppers visiting the centre and retail park right through the four-day shopping period and that despite being busy, everyone was in really great spirits and delighted to be back. It was very encouraging to see.”

“Customers and staff were delighted to be safely back out and about and the buzz was fantastic. From our research, shoppers were returning not only to bag themselves a bargain but also to spend some of their lockdown savings on a pre-summer splurge.”

Rushmere said it had also added an outdoor dining terrace for customers ahead of the weekend and that this was providing “extremely popular” for Al Fresco casual dining.

“Bright, modern, spacious and carefully managed, Rushmere is well-placed to ensure that every customer’s journey reflects maximum safety at all times, and we were delighted with the strong adherence to mask-wearing and social distancing throughout the complex,” Martin said.

Rushmere remains focused on safety, extending opening hours across most stores to spread demand and reduce queues.

Though Friday marked its first ‘normal’ trading day since Christmas Eve 2020, the centre had remained open for retailers of essential items such as food, pharmacy and pet supplies since March, with Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Home Bargains, Boots, Specsavers, Holland & Barrett, Post Office, B&M Bargains, Pets at Home and Pound Stretcher all continuing to operate.

Several other stores, including Matalan, Curry’s PC World and Argos reopened for click-and-collect services on April 12, while hospitality outlets including McDonald’s, Costa Coffee, Five Guys and Nando’s continued to provide a mix of delivery and takeaway services.

Nelson Shanks, Regional Manager for Five Guys restaurant, said:

“It’s great to have our Five Guys restaurant back at Rushmere back in action following the relaxation of covid restrictions which allows us to serve our customers with our outdoor dining space. This, along with the outdoor seating recently installed by Rushmere, is proving to be a huge success and a great boost for everyone.”

Restrictions on indoor dining are expected to be lifted on May 24 subject to approval.



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