I read with some surprise and anger the article entitled ‘Plea to save Portchester from dying’ in last month’s News.
Surprised that no-one from the News thought to consult the Portchester Traders Association as to the opinion of the local traders, and angry at the statement made by Councillor Walker that ‘the problem is the shops left are branded stores, local shops are disappearing so we end up with nail bars and charity shops.’
I myself have just celebrated 25 years of trading in the precinct. The Boulangerie has done 35 years, The Car Cabin, Homewise Hardware and Carpet Gallery all around 30, all well-known ‘branded’ stores, I don’t think!
Then there are several others who have traded for 10 years plus, like Twells Butchers and Wicor Models. We are not dying but we have suffered over the years from outside market pressures. The building of Sainsbury’s at Wallington and Tesco’s at North Shore have eroded the footfall through the precinct over the years, but each of us has evolved and got through.
Yes, there are charity shops, but that’s better than empty units, it helps give customers a reason to visit.
Why did Charlene Worsfold not seek out and ask a PORTRAS representative on the thoughts of the traders? Several shops display a sticker proclaiming membership and would have gladly pointed her in the direction of Kevin Butcher, chairman.
Likewise, her claim that £115,000 from a planning deal is available, while the Lidl website quotes £50,000 – quite a difference!
Each of us will agree that any move to brighten up the area can only be for the good. A few bits of street furniture and the like is not going to turn a 1970’s built shopping precinct into a Dickensian retail fantasy.
Any new business attracted to the area will only come if the people interested are convinced that their type of business can survive and perhaps flourish at this site. This means an attractive retail option that meets the needs of the local populace.
I certainly did not examine the street furnishing when I took my lease in 1990, I looked at the footfall and the other trades already there.
Finally, I have checked with several of the long-standing independent traders and not one of them was asked about their thoughts on the current state of the precinct by either Charlene Worsfold or Councillor Walker, nor did they sign any petition.
However, I have had several comments from customers who found this article alarmist and inaccurate.