FOUR-AND-A-HALF months of roadworks are being blamed for a sharp drop in retail sales in Bexleyheath.

Town centre manager Ian Payne, Bexley councillor Chris Ball and business owner Nigel Barrett believe the revitalisation project has driven away shoppers.

Retails sales are on average of minus 7.1 per cent down between January to May compared to the same period last year, according to data compiled by Bexleyheath Business Improvement District (BID).

Cllr Ball said: “When you compare it to an average of 0.8 per cent nationally, something is going wrong.

“If a John Lewis was being built they people would put up with it but not a roundabout.”

The Bexley Council revitalisation scheme finished at the start of month and involved a temporary one-way system while a new roundabout in Albion Road, new shared space areas at Trinity Place and Christ Church on the Broadway were built.

The work, which also included an an improved crossing at the corner of the Broadway to the pedestrianised area near Asda, finished at the end of last month.

The next stage will see the removal of two more sets of traffic signals in Arnsberg Way and work is expected to last until October.

Nigel Barrett, who runs Nigel Barrett Photography in Bexleyheath Broadway, said: “I think the improvement is a good thing.

“With more people coming in by foot hopefully they will come back with the improvements made.

“But I was surprised how major the roadworks were. I was looking forward to them as I was thinking how great money was being spent on Bexleyheath.

“I’ve lost my loading space out of the front which I didn’t know would happen.”

While year-on-year retail sales dropped between January and May, footfall increased by 4.6 per cent.

During the busiest month, April, 760,000 people visited Bexleyheath town centre, a rise of 19.8 per cent compared to the same month last year.

Mr Payne, Bexleyheath’s town centre manager, told News Shopper: “People are coming into the town but they’re not spending. We’ve got a good selection of shops.

“From January to May, because of the roadworks ,sales have gone down but we’ve seen footfall increase. There are some stores, like TK Maxx and M&S year on year are doing very well.

“What we’re finding is people are being cuter on how to buy. They’re looking around, going back home, and buying online.

“I think we will see a slight pick up now the roadworks have finished. Some retailers have to be more customer conscious but it’s very difficult to say to a business who has been doing it for years to change.”