DESPITE the challenges facing high streets and shopping centres across the country, Leigh's Spinning Gate seems to be flourishing as a "friendly and familiar" centre at near capacity.

With a lack of investment and an increasing preference to shop online or at retail parks, many town centres - including Leigh - have suffered from dwindling footfall and departing businesses in recent years.

Inevitably, these problems have been heightened by the pandemic and cost of living crisis, yet Leigh's central shopping centre seems to be bucking the trend as it closes in on becoming a 100% occupied site.

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Leigh Journal: Inside Spinning Gate shopping centreInside Spinning Gate shopping centre (Image: LDRS)

With 39 stores in the building, Spinning Gate may be a smaller-scale shopping centre compared to other areas - yet this may have played to its benefit as there have never been too many empty units at the Ellesmere Street site.

Connected to Leigh Market, the bus station and the centre car park, the accessible Spinning Gate currently boasts a 97% occupancy rate, with work ongoing to replace the former Book Cycle with a permanent occupier and negotiations progressing to fill the site's final unit.

And as many businesses have stayed at the shopping centre for years, customers have commented that there is a feeling of familiarity and stability at Spinning Gate, helped by a "great mix of shops" that balances established brands alongside traditional independent businesses.

Leigh Journal: Karen and the Spinning Gate team have won five Green Apple awardsKaren and the Spinning Gate team have won five Green Apple awards (Image: Spinning Gate)

Karen Cox, who took over as centre manager of Spinning Gate in 2017, said: "We were fully operational during covid with our bank, supermarket, and opticians remaining open, but since that time when everything was mostly shut, footfall has been increasing every single day.

"We have had lots of great feedback that people feel safe and secure in the centre, and that we have a diverse range of shops that serve our town and demographic.

"Many customers have left great reviews saying that we are a friendly and familiar shopping centre, and this is shown by some of our older customers coming back and visiting the centre three or four times a week.

"Because of this stability, where there are repeat customers and there isn't a high turnover of businesses, I think that we are outperforming other shopping centres of a similar size."

Leigh Journal: Louise Toker and Skye Burton at the Spinning Gate's popular Caffe DolceLouise Toker and Skye Burton at the Spinning Gate's popular Caffe Dolce (Image: Leigh Journal)

As a way to continue this feeling of familiarity, Karen and the Spinning Gate team organise a bunch of community-friendly, free events throughout the year, such as kid's picnic and play areas, Easter Egg appeals, and Santa visits at Christmas.

With an extra focus on the environment and sustainability, Spinning Gate has also won five Green Apple International Awards for 'Environmental Best Practice' and ensuring that 100% of the centre's waste is diverted from landfill.

Leigh Journal: The centre currently has its picnic and play area for kidsThe centre currently has its picnic and play area for kids (Image: Spinning Gate)

Karen added: "Because we have such loyal customers at the centre, I think it's important to bring joy to families and give something back to the community.

"In addition to our retail offer, this brings confidence in the centre and promotes it as a place where people want to visit.

"It is also my responsibility to manage our security and cleaning teams, and 150 contractors to ensure an effective operation of the centre, so no two days are the same.

"But I love working with the centre team, our stores, and our shoppers too."