Small businesses looking to high streets to expand, survey finds
The death of the high street may be greatly exaggerated – almost 50 per cent of small businesses in the South East are looking to grow in town centres.
A Visa-commissioned survey of more than 100 small high street businesses across the south east found owners increasingly optimistic about the future of their local high street.
More than 70 per cent were optimistic, compared to just 54 per cent last April.
With renewed hopes have come plans for expansion, with four in 10 respondents saying they planned to open another high street store over the next 12 months.
To capitalise on the change of mood, executive chair at Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, Ross McNally, said ‘the unfair costs’ of trading on the high street needed to be addressed.
He said: ‘Addressing the often unfair costs of trading in these locations is a matter needing urgent attention by government, for this positive outlook to be maintained.
‘It is good to see growing optimism in the high street, particularly from small and indepedent retailers.
‘There is no doubt our town centres are undergoing change and it is this enterprising spirit which is essential to any transformation.’
Last October, The News launched its Love Your High Street Campaign, encouraging shoppers to support independent businesses on their high street, as they face rising business rates and rents, high parking charges, and the loss of vital banking services.
The co-owner of 157 Store in Fareham, Tyler Adams, said independent shops were experiencing a 'resurgence’ despite the ‘crippling’ cost of business rates.
He said: ‘I would rather be the owner of an independent store than Debenhams at the moment.
‘People used to say we were at the wrong end of town – now we have a rather sad shopping centre, and where we are at the other end of town, it’s more bustling.
‘All the shops are more upbeat – but the business rates for some shops are crippling.’
Tyler said that car parking remained an ‘issue,’ with the manager of a vape cigarrette shop in Gosport agreeing.
Laura Nash, manager of Vapourium, in Stoke Road, said: ‘Parking is definetely an issue, but we are pretty optimistic.’
More than a third of shoppers surveyed in the south east said they preferred shopping in their local high street, compared to less than a quarter preferring to shop online.