A SHOPPING centre is celebrating another record-breaking year after fighting back from a downturn in trade.
Like all retailers, Dalton Park has been affected by the recession, but still managed to up its footfall and sales, as well as reach the highest occupancy level of tenants in its nine-year history.
The Murton outlet centre welcomed 2.7million people during 2011, up by 4.5 per cent from 2009, and put another five per cent on like-for-like sales and sales per square foot of the complex.
The business forecast for this year expects those figures to be topped again.
Leaders are in talks with a number of retailers interested in signing up to units in the mall, which was built on the site of a former colliery.
A programme of events is being drawn up to attract visitors.
It is hoped the efforts will ensure its occupancy level remains at 97 per cent or above.
Jerry Hatch, Dalton Park’s general manager, said: “We’re working really hard and holding many meetings to bring more quality brands.
“We’d like to bring in something along the lines of cosmetics and fragrances and services as well to provide a mix and there are potential holders being considered.
“I’ve been asked if outlets are killing off the high street, but things were already starting to decline.
“Things change and move on and places such as this offer something for those who are short of time, and are convenient, where they can park for free.
“Places like Morpeth have shown they can build new developments and complement the existing shopping areas and how private developers can work in combination with what’s there.
“After a very positive start to this year’s January sales we are confident we can build on this sound progress throughout 2012.”
New names in the last year included Hallmark Cards, new men and ladieswear stores, and expansions and moves for three shops.
The owners of Dalton Park also hope agreements will be in place to ensure work begins on the phase two of the development soon.
It includes a supermarket, petrol station, hotel, cinema and restaurants and will cost £24million.
The additional businesses could create about 500-plus jobs.
The centre’s bosses have chosen 2009 to compare its statistics against because it was comparable in weather and trading conditions because of 2010’s extreme snowy weather.