A NORTH-EAST shopping centre says it has enjoyed a strong festive period, with increased footfall boosting traders' fortunes.

Middleton Grange, in Hartlepool, says more than 1.3 million people visited the centre in December, a rise of nearly four per cent compared to the previous year.

Bosses have also revealed a 15 per cent increase in the number of shoppers taking advantage of the Boxing Day sales.

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Mark Rycraft, Middleton Grange manager, said it was encouraging Hartlepool people were bucking the national trend and shopping local.

He said: “There is no doubt online retailing is on the increase, but what we offer as a collective can outweigh that by far.

“By going to your local shopping centre you’re not only able to see the goods you’re buying, you’re also securing local jobs and that is vital in the current climate.”

Despite the figures, Mr Rycraft said more work was still required to drive the numbers of shoppers even higher.

He said: “Our specialist retail agents continue to market Middleton Grange and Hartlepool, and the increase in footfall this year, especially at Christmas, goes some way to demonstrate to potential future retailers that we are a vibrant shopping centre and town centre worth investment.

“As a centre, we also have to look at what we can do to help support our retailers.”