Comment: Mixed fortunes for the South Lakeland economy

THERE was mixed news on the retailing and economic front in South Lakeland this week.

On the positive side, family-owned Lakeland, based at Windermere, announced it was to expand its distribution centre at Kendal to increase storage capacity by 50 per cent and create more than 100 new jobs over the next five years.

The company also hopes to increase the number of its stores nationally from 60 to 100, boost its presence in the Middle East and launch Lakeland to the German market.

On a much less positive note, the company that owns Kendal’s K Village - Kendal Riverside Limited - went into adminstration, meaning there is an uncertain future ahead for the £100m development, which opened in July 2010.

At that time the company was aiming to bring more than 1.5 million visitors and up to 4,000 coaches to the centre a year.

The company and administrators were remaining fairly tight-lipped this week but both stressed that the centre was still operating - it was ‘business as usual’ - and that that was the intention for the future.

The old K Village centre usually appeared busy - shoppers often had to hunt for a car parking spot. The new £100million centre, on the other hand, rarely seems to be buzzing with shoppers, a number of outlets have left over the past two and a half years and there are still some empty units.

Perhaps the parking charges - since reduced - have put people off, or maybe there was simply too much expectation surrounding the opening of the development in the first place.

The new centre also opened at a time of recession and economic uncertainty. And it is interesting that Lakeland puts it expansion down to the rise in online, rather than traditional, shopping.

It is ironic that the uncertainly surrounding K Village has happened at a time when Westmorland and Lonsdale MP Tim Farron and local traders are trying to create a new marketing strategy to attract shoppers to Kendal. If this bears fruit, it will benefit the whole town.

It may be, also, that K Village has reached a watershed. It is to be hoped that some sort of action plan can be developed swiftly that will boost the fortunes of the centre.

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