IT's a strange mix of circumstances. Or is it?

Parts of Bournemouth look run down, with a large number of empty shops and To Let signs sitting above them.

But the town is packed with visitors at evenings and weekend to see the hugely successful Christmas Wonderland offering.

Yesterday we reported claims that 'greedy landlords and agents' were to blame for 15 vacant units in just a couple of hundreds yards of Old Christchurch.

But clearly it isn't that simple.

A report published yesterday by national analysts Springboard said high street retailers had their worst November for a decade because of online competition.

In Old Christchurch Road, Alan Rowett, owner of vinyl record store Vault, said: "This end of town is becoming desolation boulevard. It's awful. "There are loads of really good shops up towards Horseshoe Common, but rents are not realistic. The High Street is changing and people's buying habits are changing, but this is not reflected in the business rates and rental costs. "The Bournemouth Town Centre BID are doing very good things down in the Square and towards the seafront, but they're not helping us on this side of the town centre at all.

"We pay quite a high fee but all we get in return is a visit from the town centre rangers a couple of times a day." He added an ongoing issue with lighting along Old Christchurch Road was also affecting footfall during the dark winter evenings.

"The lighting along the street towards Horseshoe Common hasn't been working for years. At the moment, come 4pm, it's pitch black heading up past Greggs. People think there's nothing else to see.

"Some information boards telling people there are more shops this way would help."

Bournemouth BID chief Paul Kinvig said the reason for the large number of visitors to the town centre in recent days was simple - Christmas Tree Wonderland.

He said the trail of illuminated giant trees had become a 'national Christmas attraction' with visitors coming from all over the country to witness the spectacle.

"We've had a number of bloggers and Instagramers visit who have raved about it and the feedback on social media has been incredible," he said. "We know we've had visitors from all over the country."

He said a number of visitors were making their third or fourth visit and this was having a good effect on trade.

"We're awaiting figures for the weekend but we know footfall in the town centre was up 14 per cent last week compared to the same week a year ago," he said.

The fact that Christmas Tree Wonderland is free has been a boon for hard-pressed families, he said, but it had given them a reason to come into the town and spend.

"It's creating the opportunity for business in the town which gives traders the best chance," he said.

“It’s been a real joy to be a part of, and when various partnerships come together an create something like this it becomes a real draw."

Bournemouth councillor David D’Orton-Gibson lives in the town centre and is on the board of the Bournemouth Development Company – the public-private partnership which is developing key sites in the town centre.

He said the company had a “place-shaping role” as well as a brief to development.

“We can’t stop online shopping. What we have to do is try to give people reasons to use the town, whether that’s street entertainment or whatever we put in the Pavilion North development,” he said.

“I think we need to have a vision for the town centre.”

He said there was more of a trend to use town centre buildings as cafes, restaurants and leisure attractions such as escape rooms.

“I think what we have to do is try to find uses for these places – uses that are appropriate and I think more leisure and entertainment is what’s going to happen. We all shop online and that’s going to continue.”

He said Bournemouth was unlike most town centres because the council owned little or no high street property.

He said of the Old Christchurch Road row of empty shops: “We don’t have the sites there. We have done the Leyton Mount development at the top which has a restaurant on the ground floor and flats above, bringing more people into the town centre.

“That’s one of the town centre objectives, to have more people living in the town, to make it more lively and vibrant. If more people live in the town centre it, also gives potential for them to travel less.”