Cumbria’s visitor economy is the key to helping the county’s retailers flourish in challenging times, according to a specialist commercial solicitor.

The latest BDO High Street Sales Tracker revealed that high street sales nationally fell by 0.8 per cent in June compared to the same month last year.

The figures also mark 16 out of 17 consecutive months of no in-store sales growth.

But Stuart Bailey, of Thomson Hayton Winkley, said he believed the county’s £3 billion tourism industry was the key to reversing that slowdown in Cumbria.

Mr Bailey said: “The drop in demand for face-to-face shopping has fundamentally changed the appearance of the high street and some towns and cities nationally are seeing 13 to 14 per cent vacancy rates on the high street.

"However, a number of towns in South Lakeland are actually bucking this trend with vacancy rates below five per cent. That’s partly down to the huge benefits the tourism sector brings, either directly or indirectly.

“Whether you are based in one of the so-called ‘honeypot’ tourist areas or not, I firmly believe that the more Cumbrian shops that can accommodate the tourism sector, the better for all of us who live and work here.

"By evolving and diversifying the customer experience, shops can appeal more to visitors want to buy their friends and family authentic local gifts.

“Cumbria also excels in truly independent shops which offer items which you generally don’t buy on the internet. Ultimately, creating rich experiences is key to catering for the tourism trade.”