Festivals, fine weather and a plethora of independent shops are helping Holmfirth traders hold their own in a changing retail world.

Latest findings from a long-running project into trading patterns in the town showed that the Summer Wine town saw a fall in footfall during the first quarter of 2018 – partly due to a number of days of heavy snow.

But it said the week including the two-day Holmfirth Folk Festival earlier this month brought an extra 6,000 people to the town compared with the previous week – with local shops reporting an increase in trade as revellers enjoyed the variety offered by the independent stores in the town.

And another bumper turnout is hoped for when Holmfirth Arts Festival takes place from June 14 to 17.

Holmfirth is taking part in a national project run by Manchester Metropolitan University, The Institute of Place Management and retail analyst Springboard to explore factors affecting the vitality and viability of town centres.

The project provides a weekly update on shopping patterns in the town.

Project co-ordinator Margaret Doyle said: “Town centres and people’s behaviour are changing quite dramatically. There’s no denying that shopping patterns are very different, not just because of the internet but because people are more hard up. You can see how much petrol has gone up, which affects how much money is left in people’s pockets to spent once you’ve filled up the car.

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“Footfall is going down and it is toughest for retailers, but in comparative terms, Holmfirth is doing better than a lot of similar towns.”

Margaret said: “One of the biggest things in our favour is the number of small independent shops. They are not as prone to closure as some of the big nationals because they don’t have the overheads and because the owners can live with a bit of ‘poverty’, they are a little bit more robust.”

Margaret said the other plus for Holmfirth was that “we do things”. She said: “The festivals are an attraction and the town centre – despite some of the problems we have – is still a pleasant place to be. Holmfirth Conservation Group recently completed an appraisal of the town centre Conservation Area. We have a lot of remarkable buildings that all add to the feel of the place.”

Figures show that Holmfirth has more than 170 ground floor outlets and one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country.

Said Margaret: “Around 18,000 people visit the town centre each week. The challenge is to increase this number and to make sure the new shops coming into the vacant properties complement the existing rich offer.

“We can be reasonably confident of our facts when we say Holmfirth is doing okay – but could do better.”

The update follows concerns voiced by some residents for the future of retailing following a number of shop closures and the imminent threat fo closure to the town’s indoor market.

Margaret said retailers and local people on the project were working together to keep the town centre viable and vibrant.

She said: “We know that many people care a lot about our town and want to see local shopping facilities thrive. This can only happen if local people use the shops and spend locally. It is very simply a case of ‘if you don’t use it, you will lose it’.

“Shops will only survive if they have regular customers.”