WINCHESTER Business Improvement District’s annual Barometer Report on city centre trade has been published – and it is not all bad news.

The report is based on feedback from 60 BID members, made up of 32 national chains and 28 independent stores.

Around 39 per cent of city retailers performed “exceptionally” with sales increasing at least five per cent in 2019 (last year the proportion was 28 per cent). Around 37 per cent of businesses expect to increase their levels of profitability in 2020.

Director of the BID, Paul Spencer said: “The latest report indicates that Winchester’s retail performance is good given the economic and technological pressures affecting the sector and retailers produced much better results in 2019 than in 2018.”

The report adds: “It is not all bad news in Winchester 15 per cent of businesses report a confidence score of at least plus eight compared to only ten percent at the start of 2019.”

On a scale of one to ten, the median Christmas trade expectations score was eight – one higher than last year.

However, 25 per cent of retailers reported declines in takings of at least five per cent.

The vacancy rate in the city centre has also risen to 6.9 per cent – 0.7 per cent higher than last year. This is still lower than the national average of ten per cent.

Mr Spencer added: “Our research highlights that there are businesses in the city reporting disappointing results, but there is hope and we can learn from those in the city which are performing well.”

Nearly two thirds of retailers are either ‘neutral’ or ‘not sure’ about the impact Brexit will have on their businesses, and 27 per cent are ‘negative’ about Brexit’s impact.

Although the report does not include any information on internet purchases locally, the Office for National Statistics says that the proportion of online sales to total sales in November 2019 was 21.5 per cent – just an 18 per cent increase compared to 2006.

The full report can be seen on the BID’s website.