THINGS have been bad on Winchester High Street. But they could be worse and the situation is getting better with businesses showing “great resilience” and increasing optimism.

So says the latest business barometer report for Winchester Business Improvement District.

Research by John Kind, of Winchester Business School, and Sara Arnold of consultants Secret Genius, have analysed feedback from 56 BID members in the city centre, including shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants and professional services such as accountants.

Their report, done before the new lockdown, concludes: “Despite facing unprecedented challenges, BID businesses continue to show great determination and resilience. The prediction for their 2020 performance is much more optimistic than three months ago as the reduction in Q3 sales was much less than in earlier quarters.”

It calls for retailers to boost their online presence with national polls saying 70 per cent of shoppers are reluctant to do their Christmas shopping in shops this year.

Several shops have closed their doors for the final time since the lockdown including Laura Ashley, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, West Cornwall Pasty Company and Starbucks.

The report found that all those polled expect to survive, compared to 87 per time previously. Some 88 per cent expect to re-employ furloughed staff compared to 79 per cent last time.

The median change in actual takings in the first nine months of 2020 is 25 per cent down on the same period in 2019. Last year was 3 per cent up on 2018. In the previous quarter the drop in sales was 50 per cent.

So far no national chains questioned have made staff redundant, compared to 19 per cent of independents and 25 per cent in hospitality.

Footfall into city centre outlets fell by half in January-September 2020 compared to same period in 2019 showing how severe the impact of the lockdown was.

On empty shops on the High Street, the vacancy rate has nearly doubled this year. Currently it is 10.1 per cent, up from 7.8 per cent in last quarter and 5.3 per cent at the start of 2020.

Nationally, The Times said the move away from retail will continue with landlords seeking to concert empty shops into offices and flats. The Centre for Retail Research said: “One in ten shops will never be used again as retail outlets. As much as 10 per cent of retail floor space might need to be repurposed.”