The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) is warning that many small shops may not be around next Christmas. The warning comes as more and more supermarkets and multiple-retailers are setting up.
Brighton has built its reputation on its unique offer of independent shops but can they compete against the big multiples that offer out of town shopping with parking?
City Centre Manager Soozie Campbell says, “Yes indeed they can but it won’t be plain sailing. The traders need to think creatively about how they can continue to draw shoppers away from Blue Water, Croydon and Crawley.
“Initiatives such as the Unique Brighton Home Delivery Service coupled with the recent cut in bus fares offers a great incentive for people who are concerned about the environment. It also makes shopping in Brighton as easy as shopping at Blue Water but with the added attraction of interesting independent shops.
“And as long as our shops continue to offer the exciting range of unusual merchandise people will continue to make the trip to Brighton for their Christmas shopping.”
The FSB, together with Friends of the Earth is urging shoppers to avoid out of town shopping centres and to hit their local high street instead. Avoiding the out-of-town shopping centres saves on carbon emissions generated from longer car journeys and will also allow shoppers to enjoy better personal service and wider choice. The local economy will also be protected so that a thriving high street is still able to offer these amenities and jobs for local people in the long-term.
It is also important that Brighton offers a good balance of multiples and independents in a complementary arrangement and that both sectors work together to attract new customers.
An example of a town that seems to be failing in this respect is Macclesfield in Cheshire. The local authority there is spending over £200 million to bring in the big players but plans to site them away from the traditional high street. The result will be to draw the focus away from the independents. Combine this with free parking at the superstores and below-cost selling and before you know it the small businesses can no longer survive.
As well as cutting car journeys, small shops help the environment by stocking local produce and using less packaging than the big supermarkets. Supporting them is a simple way to help make our local communities more sustainable.
John Wright, FSB National Chairman, said, "The decline of our high streets should be given urgent attention. If we want our independent shops to be around next Christmas we have to support them. They offer the wealth of variety and originality that the big faceless shopping centres cannot match.
"Shopping locally also cuts carbon emissions and helps to create sustainable communities for the future.
Richard Hines, Real Food campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said, "The big supermarkets are squeezing independent retailers out of business all year round so it's vital that we support local shops this Christmas. If we shop local first we can help our high streets to thrive, as well as benefitting the environment. And once you've recovered from the Christmas festivities, why not make local shopping a new year's resolution for 2008?"
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