TRADERS facing some of the toughest conditions of all time have issued a plea to shoppers: support our shops.
In a series of special reports starting today, The News took to the streets to shine a light on the state of retail across busy high streets in Portsmouth, Gosport, Havant and Fareham.
While traders have been praised as ‘resilient’, the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has warned retailers are being squeezed with ever-increasing business rates and rising rents hitting profit margins – forcing some shops to close while many others struggle to get by.
Despite being the lifeblood of the community, many shops feel they do not get the support they need to stay in trade.
Potential shop owners are thought to have been put off opening up as a result of gruelling costs, especially with rates bills set to outpace inflation this year.
The verdict supports findings by The Local Data Company (LDC) and British Independent Retailers Association (Bira), which showed a drop in traditional independent shops compared to the same period last year.
Neil Eames, development manager at FSB Wessex, said: ‘Our independent retailers in Portsmouth are clearly resilient and, like all small businesses, small retailers on the high street are not only important to the economy but to a local community itself, often giving shoppers more choice, a personal service, or a “one-off” product.’
Mr Eames added: ‘Small firms are facing constantly mounting economic pressures – especially retail where so many have been hit by increasing business rates and rising rents threatening our local high streets. It’s vital shoppers get behind their local small businesses.’
Pat Langford, owner of Langford Antiques, which has been trading for 35 years in Albert Road, Southsea, said: ‘The rates are too high and keep going up.
‘If the rates were lower then more people would try opening a shop.
‘A lot of shops are boarded up.
Robert Fulton, joint owner of Tofu Cute, a Japanese import business that sells toys and sweets in North End, said: ‘High street retail is dying – you see shops shutting down all the time and being turned into flats or whatever.’
Marie Abbs, owner of the Pantry Cafe in East Street, Havant, added: ‘If it stays as quiet as this I’ll have to see how we’re going to move forward. It is very quiet.’