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Summer ends brightly at the Grand Pier

Monday 16th September

The sun was shining on Weston-super-Mare’s Grand Pier over the August Bank Holiday, which was the best and busiest weekend for at least a decade.

Twice as many people visited the Pier during the 2019 August Bank Holiday as they did in 2018, thanks mostly to the record temperatures.

Alex Demetriou, Director of the Grand Pier, said: “No one here can remember the Pier ever experiencing three consecutive days like that, certainly not since it re-opened in October 2010, following the fire two years earlier.”

The Pier’s success reflected the national picture, with VisitBritain reporting a £2.1bn boost to the UK economy as 8.6 million holidaymakers booked Bank Holiday staycations.

Children returning to school traditionally sees the sun set on the peak summer season, prompting the Pier’s team to reflect on the year so far, and the holiday period in particular.

Alex said the end of the month demonstrated just how big an impact the weather has on the fortunes of seaside attractions.

“While we had no single record-breaking day in August, the Bank Holiday weekend was our best weekend ever in terms of footfall and spend.

“For the first two weeks of August we had wind, rain and showers but the consistent sunny weather in that last week turned it all around.”

The weather can affect the Pier in a number of ways, as Alex explained. “A sunny morning is great for driving day trippers to Weston-super-Mare, as they open their curtains, see the sun, and decide to head for the seaside.

“A particularly hot day brings visitors in from the beach seeking some shade from the sun, and perhaps something to eat, and a day that starts sunny but clouds over is also good for us, as beach-goers head indoors for shelter.

“When the beach is busy, our shore-end units are busy, but we do all we can to encourage guests to enjoy the complete Grand Pier experience by venturing along the boardwalk to the Pavilion.

“When we look at our figures, we can instantly tell if the weather has been good by the sales of fish and chips, ice creams and bar takings.”

This is confirmed by the August figures, which showed a 1.7 percent increase in the amount being spent on the amusements while the food and beverage offer saw sales increase by 16 percent across the month.

Overall the number of people who have been to the Grand Pier in 2019 is marginally down on last year (by one percent) but the spend per head is up by four percent so far this year.

The Bank Holiday provided a welcome boost to business in what has been a challenging year for attractions like the Grand Pier.

Alex said: “We have had increases to the minimum wage and pension contributions fully kick in for the full financial year, plus increases to business rates, all against the overall ongoing tide of uncertainty due to Brexit.

“Add to that other factors such as a 20 percent increase in the cost of cod, which is one of our high volume product purchases, and the pressures on businesses in our sector are considerable.

“We are very conscious that a family’s disposable income is reducing, and some customers face uncertainty over their own jobs and livelihood.

“We are also very aware of how price-sensitive the market is, which is why we decided not to pass any increased costs to us on to our guests.

“This means we have to work harder than ever to try to increase footfall and spend per head. Because we do not want to pass increases on to our visitors.

“The August Bank Holiday was very much needed by leisure businesses who are so reliant on the weather.”

With autumn approaching the Pier is now focusing on its appeal as an all-weather, all-year-round, attraction.

Alex added: “Although we overlook the beach, everything we have here is indoors, so although the weather significantly affects the number of people visiting the town, our rides and attractions can be enjoyed come rain or shine.

“We have a covered walkway along the length of the Pier, so our main Pavilion is easy to get to, whatever the weather.”

After the bumper end to the summer, the Pier is hoping to end 2019 on a high, with its biggest and best Halloween offer yet, as well as several Christmas-themed events and parties throughout December, tickets for which are already selling ahead of last year.

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