Small businesses think big to get customers back to the high street

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SMALL retailers across the south have been showing off their wares to the public as part of a special event to encourage more people to shop locally.

The initiative is called Small Business Saturday, and was the first of its kind to be run in the UK, having begun in America.

The idea behind it is to encourage shoppers to rediscover their local high street, in the hope that they will return to independent shops and businesses rather than turning to the internet or chain stores to shop.

One of the businesses taking part was Absolute Running in Gosport.

The shop, owned and run by Nick and Harry Carter, was one of many retailers promoting the day locally, and with great success.

Harry said: ‘We haven’t done anything particularly special, and I don’t know if it has anything to with Christmas approaching as well, but we’ve had the busiest Saturday of the year. It’s been great.’

In Portsmouth, Denise Hodges, owner of If It Races in London Road, North End, said her reasons for getting involved were two-fold.

She said: ‘We are trying to get more people to come in and see us, but what we also want to do is to use it to ask the council to give people half-an-hour or an hour’s free parking in the car park.

‘All the businesses around here want that. People won’t come because they don’t want to pay to park.’

Caroline Collings-Wood, chairman of the Portsmouth & South East Hampshire branch of the Federation of Small Businesses, was at If It Races.

She said: ‘It’s about using small businesses to retain the diversity on the high street.

‘It’s invaluable for the economy to have a busy, bustling high street.’

As part of the scheme, Portsmouth City Council had granted use of the public car park off Stubbington Avenue for free on Saturday.

In a similar move, Havant Borough Council also made it free to park in all its town centre car parks for three hours.

Barncroft ward councillor, Mike Fairhurst, said: ‘There are around 700 independent small businesses in the borough’s town centres and they are vital to the local economy.

‘They provide employment and valuable services, bringing money into the borough.’

Recently, representatives from the FSB’s Wessex region met nine MPs, including Fareham’s Mark Hoban and Gosport’s Caroline Dinenage in Westminster to address key problems small firms face such as more shoppers using the internet.




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