High street confidence

DIRE straights which many high street businesses are experiencing calculated on a national scale may not be as bad as the general trend as far as March is concerned.

Financial restriction affects everyone but we have a role to play in restoring confidence in the high street. More than 5,000 high street shops in England are threatened with closure. If this happens places are likely to become ghost towns and it is feasible that high streets will never be the same again. Vision is needed. Markets are being encouraged to assert their strength and they should be recognised for their ability to encourage people from the area to spend money in local shops. Towns can benefit from re-invigorated markets which sustain central commercial trading.

At March we are fortunate to see a few empty premises reopening and it is good that a newcomer, a national general store is operating successfully, something the town has lacked for generations. This noticeably attracts visitors from beyond.

What March needs is specialised shops selling electrical goods, but I do not see the need for yet another cafe in the high street. Too many of anything is counter productive.

Saving high streets boils down to customer loyalty, and may I say less emphasis on on-line purchasing which does no good to local retailers. Eventually on-line shopping could cause high streets to disappear and ghost towns to emerge.

Shopping is a social tradition, an exercise in more ways that one, an interesting time out and meeting people. Nothing supplants amiable attitudes each side of the counter. Let’s keep it that way.

Let’s hear no more of car parking fees, a body blow to local traders. Further more rural bus services should not be curtailed as they are the life line to most people living in nearby communities. Reducing them curtails trade.

High street businesses are not being helped by councils and planners who give preferential consideration to out of town retail parks. It only transfers manpower from the high street with promises of slightly higher wages.

Terminal decline of the high street must be resisted and councils and landlords play their part in blunting the knife-edge cutting the sinews of local commerce. Increasing business rates, burdensome rents and high fuel bills at a increasingly difficult time all add to a town’s decline.

The soul of rural trading has always been commercial aptitude, friendliness and determination to survive.

TREVOR BEVIS

March