THE BRUNEL Centre has bucked regional and national trends with a steady footfall and increased year-on-year sales over the Christmas period and January.

The shopping centre, which has been a focal point in Swindon for around 40 years, went through a difficult time when its owners went into receivership in 2011.

But under new management and less than three years on, the future of the arcade is brighter with footfall up 2.5 per cent in December.

In 2013, more than 14 million shoppers visited the Brunel.

In December alone, 1.96m customers shopped at or browsed its stores and enjoyed a meal or snack at its restaurants and cafes.

Although the 14m represents a 0.1 per cent drop on 2012, the centre still succeeded in bucking national and regional downward trends.

While UK-wide, footfall was down 2.8 per cent, it fell by 4.3 per cent across the South West.

In January footfall was up 7.7 per cent at the Brunel Centre compared to just 1.7 per cent in the South West region and 2.4 per cent nationwide.

“It is fantastic news,” said general manager Steve Fawke. “We are holding our own and continuing to buck trends. Our December sales were 3.4 per cent up on December the year before and it’s all good news.

“The Brunel represents more than 50 per cent of the retail offer in the town and we want to raise the bar and go the extra mile to make people who don’t shop here come back.”

But more work remains to be done to pull the centre out of receivership, including transforming Swindonians and shoppers further afield’s perception of the Brunel. For too many years, a strong focus was placed on driving profits to the detriment of investment and improvements at the shopping mall, said Mr Fawke.

“We know the perception of the Brunel is not where it should be because the centre has had so many different owners and people at the helm,” he added.

“It was all about income before and I think while income has a part to play, we need to be able to consolidate what the centre is doing to improve year on year.

“We intend to make the Brunel a more family-friendly shopping centre. And we are going to be putting on nice events to entice people into the town. Swindon has an awful lot to offer.

“We are heading in the right direction.”

The 530,000 sq ft shopping centre is managed by First Investments and contains 110 shops and restaurants.

The centre is working in partnership with other stakeholders to ensure Swindon appears as an attractive shopping destination to people across the town and beyond, Mr Fawke added.