ONLINE shopping, a lack of free parking and nicer shopping centres down the road have left retailers feeling the pinch.
A mix of chains, charity shops, restaurants and independent retailers make up Fareham’s main shopping district, West Street but business owners have warned a change is needed to help them survive.
Roger Williams has owned Willows Furniture Emporium and Accessories for more than two decades and spent seven years at his current address on West Street.
He believes the downturn in business is in part due to the boom of online shopping.
Roger said: ‘Most shops have lost footfall and although people still like to go out to the shops they will see what they like and go home and buy it online for cheaper than what we can do.
‘It means we are in competition with retailers that sell a large quantity of products and are therefore cheaper.
‘I think personally for us as well there is an awareness factor as people can walk right past us and I have customers come in and say they did not know we where here.’
Roger also thinks cheaper parking in the town centre would help their cause.
He added: ‘There are few places you can park for free but only for a short amount of time which is not really enough for a look around and only coming in for what you need.
‘If the main car parks were cheaper or even free like Whiteley then people might be more inclined to spend more time in the centre.’
Heathen Chemistry Record shop owner, Simon Dampier agrees with Roger.
Simon said: ‘I have been in my store about ten months now and I can see parking is definitely one of the problems.
‘It is a shame because Fareham has such potential.
‘There are a lot of great independent shops that offer something different but people don’t know about us as they don’t go further than the shopping centre.
‘If there was to be free parking at the bottom of West Street towards the station that would mean people have to walk past all the independent shops.’
Simon believes Fareham could become a mini Camden. or Brighton with some attention.
He added: ‘Like Brighton and Camden we need to celebrate and big up our independent shops.
‘People still want a personal service which is something they can’t get online and we can’t compete with Gunwharf and Whiteley so we need to be different.’
Sixties clothing and accessories shop, In With The In Crowd told The News they were having to close.
Co-owner Melissa Poulton said: ‘Our business was online before and we still do really well on there so we will continue with that.
‘We are lucky that people come to us specifically for items but passing footfall is not strong.
‘Also having a young family has put a strain on it so we have taken the decision to close but it will be a shame not having a shop to open everyday.’
Andy Moore owns The 157 Store which specialises in retro and mod menswear.
He said: ‘I think the key for shops in Fareham is having a USP.
‘Also the street as a whole probably needs to look more appealing but individuality for the town is key.’
Next week The News will be kicking off a campaign to raise awareness of the shops in Fareham and help independent businesses thrive.