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Stores along streets such as Corn Market and Iron Gate were badly hit when Westfield opened and, for many small businesses including restaurant Soul Deli and Ruby Shoesday it proved fatal.

Other factors such as the free Hopper Bus service, for which the Evening Telegraph's Derby Bites Back campaign lobbied, has also led to an improved Nike Lebron 12 Low Air Max 95

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Harpreet Binning, manager of Santanda in the Market Place, said his restaurant's turnover so far this year was higher than in the same months last year for every week apart from three.

In a frantic bid to help shops, city centre chiefs turned the area into a Business Improvement District, sparking a number of schemes designed to get footfall flowing again.

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Meanwhile, high profile events such as Feste brought an estimated 25,000 extra people to the Market Place area, while the Christmas ice skating rink also generated 12,000 extra visitors.

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Ian McMillen, retail director of Bennetts in Iron Gate, said: "I'd say the decline seems to have stabilised and we have noticed a slight increase in regular shoppers.

But the key appears to have been Primark opening along Corn Market at the end of July last year, a day when footfall increased 141% compared to the same day of the previous week.

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Plans for a giant wheel in the Market Place are set to continue the uplift and the completion of the Cathedral Green development is expected to attract thousands this summer.

Store manager Craig Foulds said: "Since those two stores opened we've had a 5% to 8% increase in turnover. There's no doubt we've been busier.

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"Debenhams is still an empty site and it's important it gets filled as soon as possible. The council has laid on a free hopper bus but there needs to be better advertising for it."

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However, Christina Murray, manager of Cosmetics Co in the Market Place, claimed the situation remains dire.

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She said: "Footfall Nike Zoom Unit Pop over the past couple of years has gone completely down. It's been significantly less busy here.

"Factors such as events in the streets like Feste, new shop openings, movement of bus routes and signage to car parks can all have a significant influence on footfall patterns across the city centre."

Other stores say the weather was a major factor.

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James Hurdis, director of leather store Canopy in Sadler Gate, said: "Trade's pretty good at the moment. I think people are beginning to realise it's a nice place to shop when the weather picks up."

Next came the recession and it was hard to see how businesses there would attract customers.

Although that is still 19,000 less than before Westfield opened, it was, nevertheless, the first time there had been an increase in monthly footfall since September 2007.

flow of people towards the Cathedral Quarter.

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One of the stores along Corn Market to have benefited from the opening of Primark and Tesco Express is Superdrug.

"It is always good to hear something positive, but I am not really surprised. The Cathedral Quarter has a huge range of different shops and businesses. It can attract a wide range of visitors.

"Even at 9am in the morning the place looks busier than it has been. I think having the buses and the opening of Quad has brought a few more people in.

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"I'm really positive. I think the summer's going to be good because people will want to be outside instead of inside."

said: "This week, we're already 1,600 up on the same period last year and we're only three days into the week.

the Cathedral Quarter are finally taking effect and, according to shop owners, things are about to get better.

"The Business Improvement District has started to make a lot of difference but there's still a few empty units. It's going to be tricky to fill them but maybe towards the end of the year things will turn around."

Ian Ferguson, contract manager for the Cathedral Quarter Company, said: "It's too early to be jumping up and down but the signs are encouraging.

Businesses agree. They have noticed an improvement in both footfall and trade.

"I've been here for four years and we were doing well until Westfield opened. But I don't think you can blame Westfield as even shops inside there are closing. People just haven't got the money at the moment."

In December 2007, cameras recorded a 30.5% drop in numbers compared to the pre Christmas period in 2006.

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