Support shops or lose them warning

Independent Spalding shopkeeper Nikki Austin oversees every aspect of her design projects and works with trusted local tradesmen. SG220113-226TW
Independent Spalding shopkeeper Nikki Austin oversees every aspect of her design projects and works with trusted local tradesmen. SG220113-226TW
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South Holland people are being urged to use or lose their local shops as Britain is likely to see 140 High Street names close this year.

Spalding and Holbeach town centres are believed to be well-placed to survive competition from the Internet and supermarkets because they have a high proportion of independent and family-owned businesses.

But support from their communities is vital and Phil Scarlett, president of Spalding and District Area Chamber of Commerce, is urging people to buy more from local shops and less from the Internet.

He said local retailers can sometimes match or come close to Internet prices – and that takes all the hassle out of buying online.

Mr Scarlett said: “Retailers are having a challenging time, make no mistake about that.”

The collapse of High Street “dinosaurs” HMV and Blockbusters is chiefly attributed to people downloading music from the Internet and buying films from providers like Sky.

Financial experts Begbies Traynor say another 140 firms are expected to shut this year and these include stationers, book stores and chemists.

Many UK High Streets are wall-to-wall chain stores and will be left with gaping holes if big retailers fail.

Mr Scarlett said: “Spalding is in a much better position than most other towns as we have some excellent independents.

“There’s a well known phrase ‘use it or lose it’. If we don’t use our retail shops then we will lose them.”

Mr Scarlett window shops on the Internet and then asks local traders if they can match or come close to the price.

“It doesn’t have to be cheaper than the Internet for me to buy. I would rather support my local shop,” he said.

Holbeach Business Forum chairman Dave Hudson says 2013 is a good year for starting a business.

The Forum wants to rebuild the town’s market and Mr Hudson says anyone who can spot a gap in the town’s retail products could sell from the market.

He said: “For any new business that’s an excellent starting point.”

Mr Hudson owns High Street shoe shop Toto and says nothing beats the personal service, customer care and quality products offered by independents or the social aspect of talking face to face with retailers.

“You are not going to get that on the Internet,” he said.

Nikki Austin, of Austin John Interiors at The Crescent, Spalding relies on next door independent firm Wrights Flooring and Carpets and a host of trusted local traders and tradesmen to help her see through each project from start to finish.

She said Spalding people wouldn’t get the same service or the attention to detail from the Internet or a chain store.

“You get all of the advice and the experience and you have got somebody to talk to,” she said.

Ninety per cent of her business comes from referrals from satisfied customers.