Sunshine begins the season
Easter might have fallen late his year, but there are positive signs that a good season is in store for businesses and retailers in Skegness and along the East Coast.
The unexpected warm weather at the end of March brought families to the seaside, giving it a Bank Holiday feel and instilling a sense of optimism.
Both Mablethorpe and Skegness have undergone changes through the close season but are counting their lucky stars that the December tidal surge didn’t affect them as much as expected.
Lisa Collins is the new Skegness Town Manager, working on behalf of the Skegness Partnership which is a Community Interest Company.
“Skegness was very fortunate that it wasn’t as severely affected in the December floods as some other seaside resorts. But those businesses which were are now back up and running. It was primarily some of the ice cream kiosks on the foreshore that were the worst affected and the pier bowling, which has now re-opened, fully refurbished ready for the start of the season,” said Lisa.
Lisa is keen to promote Skegness as being on the drier side of Britain and will incorporate this in future marketing.
“Many visitors return to Skegness every year and enjoy coming for an annual holiday by the sea, commenting on how clean the beaches are and how they enjoy all that Skegness has to offer,” she said.
“Local guest house owners and hoteliers are already reporting good booking numbers for the forthcoming season. Carnival week always proves popular with families and the SO Festival is equally as popular, attracting new visitors to the town each year.”
But Lisa said people also enjoy exploring further afield and will visit local market towns and attractions nearby, further boosting the East Coast economy.
“Skegness is ready for what it is hoped will be a very busy season. The town is looking good and the foreshore is looking vibrant with all the traditional attractions our visitors enjoy and expect. There is also a good range of local retail businesses that ensure there is something for everyone when they visit Skegness.
“Skegness has a great deal to offer residents, day trippers and tourists and it is hoped that through the successful implementation of a BID this will continue to develop further.”
Skegness, East Coast & Wolds Hospitality Association chairman, Nigel Tett is in positive mood.
“After a reasonably good second half to the season last year, we would like to think that the weather will carry on this year because things are looking good for the season,” he said.
“It was a late Easter and that does have an effect on the main start to the season, but the weekends in March were busier than normal, with families coming to the seaside. It was almost like a Bank Holiday, with people visiting the coast for a day out.
“If we get the same weather as we did last year, I am sure we will have a good season. We have the SO Festival and the end of season bike race which is gathering pace and we know the carnival, which also brings in the visitors, is secure.”
Mablethorpe’s town manager, Karen Froggatt said there are developments afoot and some investments made during the close season are good news for the town.
“It has been confirmed that Tesco is definitely coming to Mablethorpe although it isn’t happening this year, but will in 2015. That will definitely be good for the area because currently a lot of our own residents go to Louth or Grimsby to do their shopping.”
The other news is from the Mirage amusement arcade, which is planning big changes and investment in its premises.
“Part of their plan is for a bar and coffee house and a full-sized ten-pin bowling alley, which hopefully will be open by the end of this month, in time for the summer season. There isn’t one close by and what we lack in Mablethorpe are things to do when the weather isn’t great.”
There is also a new betting shop opening as part of Mirage’s plans.
“The Dunes complex has had some more investment on the theatre side and has a big programme of shows planned throughout the season and there is a good programme of events planned for Sutton on Sea,” added Karen.
“There isn’t a lot of scope for change in Sutton on Sea but there is the possibility that a new supermarket may be built in the area near the Beach Bar, although it hasn’t been confirmed yet.”
As in the case of Skegness, holiday bookings are already looking promising.
“There are reports that bookings are looking reasonably strong, particularly for the school holidays.The rest of the year is weather-dependent, but it is good news with the income tax position, because people will be a bit better off and we are hoping that the weather will continue to be as good as it has been.”
Sutton on Sea is renowned for its beach huts which are the subject of a special event held annually in September.
The Bathing Beauties Festival is described as ‘the longest linear coastal arts festival in the world’, covering not only Sutton on Sea but neighbouring Mablethorpe as well.
Haven’s Golden Sands caravan park on Quebec Road is one of Mablethorpe’s biggest holiday sites and it reports that the situation is looking good for this year.
Spokesperson, Naomi Woodstock said: “So far the season is looking promising for our holiday business, due to the much warmer start compared to last year. Purchases of holiday homes continue to be strong following last year’s increase in demand in the second half of the year.”
Business development manager for Economy & Tourism at East Lindsey District Council, Alison Macdonald, said the district welcomes more than four million visitors annually, either for a short break, holiday or day visit.
“Tourism is worth nearly a billion pounds to East Lindsey and it is half of the total of a billion pounds for the whole of Lincolnshire.
“We are six per cent up on holiday guide requests compared to 2013 and the number of unique visitors to our website has increased dramatically by sixty-eight per cent, compared to last year.
“Anecdotally, accommodation providers are reporting that bookings are up on last year which may, in part, be due to the fact that families with children at school are no longer able to take them out of term time for holidays.”
Butlins Skegness Caravan Village, in Ingoldmells, has been synonymous with Skegness and Ingoldmells since it first opened back in 1936. It was rebranded as a holiday resort in the late 1990s and is one of only three Butlins resorts open today.
It has just been given a Gold Award in the 2013/14 David Bellamy Conservation Awards for the work that has been done to protect and enhance Britain’s natural environment. This makes it the eighth year running Butlins has received this Award of Excellence.
Ingoldmells is also home to the renowned Fantasy Island Theme Park and market, which is preparing itself for a busy season although it is open all year round.
Marketing consultant, Mark Gunner said: “We welcome three million visitors a year to the park and market and we have some new rides and different things going on this year into the summer season.”
Five miles from Skegness lies the village of Chapel St Leonards, which has a number of caravan parks next to several miles of beach.
Its landmark is Chapel Point which lies one mile north of the centre of the village and which is a restored part of a major Second World War coastal defence line. The restoration included the Gun Structure and the Viewing Platform.
In recent years Chapel Point has also become a location for birdwatchers, being visited by migrating birds such as the Mediterranean Gull.
Originally named after the Chapel dedicated to Saint Leonard, the village can trace its history back to the early 1500s.
One unusual attraction is the village green which has been redesigned to resemble the deck of a ship with its own belltower and figurehead. Picnic benches are dotted around the green making it an ideal place to relax.
DEMAND FOR JOBS
A demand for jobs prompted youth charity, The Prince’s Trust, to hold an Enterprise workshop in Skegness.
It was as a direct response from a Jobs Fair organised by Job Centre Plus at the end of February, which saw increased interest from young people in the area wanting to start their own businesses.
Prince’s Trust spokeswoman, Trudy Roberts said: “We had an influx of new referrals from unemployed young people looking to start their own businesses and explore the idea of becoming self-employed.
“The aim of the event was to support and sustain an entrepreneurial culture amongst young people living in Skegness and on the East Coast, raising their aspirations and presenting business start-up as a realistic life choice.
“We aimed to make a lasting positive impact on reducing youth unemployment in the area and provide them with the tools to launch a successful business. Now we are seeing many going on to expand and develop.”
The Prince’s Trust, which has held similar successful events in East Lindsey, is offering support to unemployed 18 to 30 year olds to help them determine if their business ideas are viable and decide whether self-employment is right for them.
The programme offers business mentoring and an opportunity to apply for financial loans or grants, thanks to financial backing from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
One young entrepreneur to benefit from The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme is Leanne Maginnis, from Sutton-On-Sea. She is now in her second year of trading and looking forward to a busy summer.
Leanne specialises in organising and running children’s birthday parties, with ponies based at Alford Road, Sutton-On-Sea.
Leanne said: “Pony Parties are special, memorable and unique. My customers have a choice. They can come to the stables or we can take the ponies to their house or a community hall. I also run pony rides, clubs and public events at, and away from, my business premises.
“It’s been my first year of running my Pony Party business and it has been a huge success.”
Last year alone, The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme supported 1,556 unemployed young people in the East Midlands giving them the skills and confidence they need to start-up in business or find work.
TESCO STORE FOR MABLETHORPE
Mablethorpe can look forward to a number of new improvements in the town centre in the next few years, thanks to Tesco’s development plans.
The supermarket chain has confirmed it will go ahead with its plans to build a store on the western edge of the town, on a thirty-one-acre site off Golf Road.
Mablethorpe Town Manager, Karen Froggatt said this is good news for the town and holidaymakers.
“It has been confirmed that Tesco is definitely coming to Mablethorpe although it isn’t happening this year, but in 2015,” she said.
“That will definitely be good for the area, for the holidaymakers and also because currently a lot of our own residents go to Louth or Grimsby to do their shopping.
“It isn’t going to be a megastore, but a medium to large outlet – but it is going to be bigger than anything around Louth.”
As part of the project, there will also be a petrol station, a bar restaurant and a housing estate bringing in new blood to the town and giving the local economy a big boost.
“The other thing about it is that it brings with it a £1m grant from the developers towards town centre improvements, so we are looking at how best to utilise that money to improve the town,” said Karen.
SKEGNESS’S NEW TOWN MANAGER
Moves are afoot in Skegness to encourage businesses to work together for the improvement of the town.
New Skegness town manager Lisa Collins, who has been in post since March, is planning to work towards developing a Business Improvement District (BID) for the town.
A BID is where businesses come together and agree to invest collectively in projects and services which will improve the business environment. It is business-led and, to ensure it is successful, more than half of the businesses need to vote in favour of it for it to go ahead.
“This is an exciting opportunity for Skegness. It will mean businesses pay a one per cent levy on their business rates, which is then invested back into the town. The funding will be spent on agreed services and projects,” said Lisa.
Lisa is currently spending time with the local business community to seek their views and hear what issues are affecting them.
“It is my intention to pull everyone’s ideas together and work to come up with a proposal of how to allocate the funding,” she said.
“Skegness is a prime UK seaside town and we need to move with the times to ensure it doesn’t get left behind.
“I’m keen to seek out new funding opportunities to help maximise local resources. We need to be innovative, resourceful and creative to build on the visitor experience and attract a wider target group of visitors.”