Late night openings start in Blackpool tonight - everything you need to know

The  manager of Hounds Hill Shopping Centre in Blackpool Debs Lancelott.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'3-5-2012
The manager of Hounds Hill Shopping Centre in Blackpool Debs Lancelott. PIC BY ROB LOCK'3-5-2012

Shoppers in Blackpool have a chance to make the most of the town’s annual late night opening hours tonight – the first of three late Thursdays in the run up to Christmas.

And at the town’s Houndshill shopping centre, they’re ready to lay on a big welcome to customers.

The centre will be open until 8pm tonight, and also on December 13 and 20.

There will be live entertainment in the main mall area near Debenhams, warm gingerbread muffins and free Houndshill travel mugs filled with non-alcoholic mulled wine.

For Debs Lancelott, Houndshill manager, the late sessions are just as welcome to the stores as they are to festive shoppers glad to find extra retail time in the week.

The retail boss is also keen to talk up Blackpool, in the face of town centre disruption caused by work on the tram link extension to Blackpool North station.

Debs said: “Firstly, the late shopping experience in Blackpool is building up momentum and getting more and more popular each year and this time will be no exception.

“In the six years I have been here at the centre, I have seen it grow as more people get to know about it.

“It is less stressful than weekend shopping and it is perfect for people leaving work who want to grab a few extra hours of leisure time.

“There will be a brilliant festive atmosphere in the Houndshill on all three nights.”

Some businesses across the town have been angered by the disruption in the town centre and a number of vocal shoppers have vowed to go elsewhere, such as Preston, but Debs insists it is short term pain for long term gain for the whole town centre, including Houndshill.

And at the Houndshill itself, there are big plans to offer more as a direct result of multi-million town centre improvements – with more places to eat and drink and a new nine screen cinema with an IMAX-style screen.

She said: “Here at the centre, everyone knows the work being carried out in Blackpool is for the greater good and the tenants are very supportive of that, for the long term gain.

“We will get a new conference with up to 7,000 delegates and a new hotel, and they will spend money when they are here.

“Blackpool is ahead of itself – this year we have had the new Icon ride at the Pleasure Beach, the new elephant enclosure at the Zoo and all the investment coming into the town centre.

“Not every town can say that these days.”

Shoppers in Blackpool were shocked when one of the Houndshill’s major stores, H&M, closed back in May with the loss of 15 jobs.

There were suggestions that the closure was the result of rent increases, although neither H&M nor Houndshill commented at the time.

Debs said there were no such issues and added: “Last month River Island opened a bigger store here in the centre, which shows how much faith they have in Blackpool. And we have a tenant ready to move into the unit which has been vacated, a well known high street retailer.”

Parking in the Houndshill centre car park will be free on each late shopping night, from after 5pm until midnight.

BUS AND TRAM OFFER

£1 tickets to use on trams and buses after 5.30pm on the three late night shopping Thursdays – tonight, December 13, and December 20 – are being offered by Blackpool Transport, as well as all day every Sunday next month.

People heading to the Grand Theatre can also travel to and from the historic venue on a bus or tram for £3, and children for £1, when tickets are booked at the same time as theatre tickets.

WHERE CAN I PARK? PARK FOR a POUND!

Shoppers can park for up to three hours on the Central Car Park, East Topping Street Car Park, and West Street Car Park during December.