BOSSES say Runcorn Shopping City is bucking the UK-wide trend of shrinking high streets.

The centre recorded strong sales performance for 2017-18 on the back of a £9million investment.

The shopping centre has been home to almost 30 independent, community-run businesses for the past 47 years with occupancy levels currently standing at a record 94.6% and footfall levels rising steadily over the past 12 months.

The positive results follow a £9m injection of investment over the past seven years including refurbishing the centre's free car parks and lighting.

Karl Clawley, manager at Runcorn Shopping City, added: “For footfall to remain high despite country-wide declines, we understood the importance of creating a welcoming, social environment where people want to shop, go for lunch and meet friends, without putting unnecessary barriers in their way.

“When we speak to visitors, the general idea of the high street disappearing isn’t a welcome one. But people want a great experience when they go shopping, and we make it our job to support the independent retailers based here, so that they know how to provide exactly that.”

Karl introduced ‘The Box’ to the shopping complex in 2016 providing new businesses with retail space so that they can try out a new venture as well as forming a ‘review forum’ for all independent stores to take advantage of.

He added: “We set up an initiative that looks at various ways of promoting a ‘shop local, stay local’ mindset.

"Within that, we offer free analysis and suggestions surrounding merchandising, store layouts and window displays – it provides business owners with a second opinion, which has shown to boost footfall and sales for our retailers.”

The centre was also one of the first in the country to become autism friendly by introducing a weekly ‘autism shopping hour’ where mall lights are dimmed, music is switched off and hand driers shut down.

A ‘chill room’ was also created to provide a calm escape for children or adults.