TRADERS in Southsea have told The News they are struggling to make ends meet.
Many retailers have struggled since the rise of the internet with the depressing reality glaringly highlighted with the all too familiar sight of shops boarded up.
Increasing costs to open and keep businesses running, as well as people’s changing tastes, have been blamed for blighting profit margins.
Traditional bookshop Say it with a Book has been operating for more than 20 years in Southsea but, despite selling many of its 60,000 books at just 50p has reported only seeing ‘steady’ trading.
‘We don’t sell any of our books online – we just rely on word of mouth and people coming into the store after walking down the street,’ owner Shirley Lunn said. ‘We have a lot of repeat customers and even get people coming from as far away as America who have heard about us who pop in.
‘Students also form a large part of our customers. They put the word out about us and like to come back especially as they can get a good bargain.’
Ms Lunn said Southsea businesses were struggling to make ends meet after being squeezed. ‘It’s difficult for shops with rents being put up by leaseholders and we’ve seen quite a few established businessed shut down or downsize recently as a result of this,’ she said.
‘Many people these days don’t live above their shops which means they are paying two lots of rent and bills. But despite this we are seeing quite a few modern types of businesses moving here including tattoo shops, internet cafe and digital shops. These people are the future and need to be looked after.’
Pat Langford, owner of Langford Antiques, which has been trading for 35 years in Southsea, said rates need to be lower to encourage more people to open a business. ‘The rates from the council are too high and keep going up. If the rates were lower then more people would try opening a shop,’ she said.
‘There are a lot of shops that are boarded up and have shut down so more needs to be done. It is strange how some smaller shops don’t pay anything in rates to the council whereas I pay quite a lot because my shop is big. The high street will be a very boring place to go if all the shops shut.
‘Business is nowhere as good as it used to be before the days of the internet – you have your good days and your quiet days. The internet hasn’t helped but I think people’s tastes have changed – there’s a lot of coffee shops these days now, for example.’
Julie Kelly, owner of record shop Sounds, said business is ‘ticking over’ but ‘would not be enough to live off.’
The shop sells second hand vinyls which makes it attractive to the older generation.
‘We don’t sell anything online but I do think the internet is a good thing for businesses up to a point as you can make extra money,’ Ms Kelly said. ‘But if you put it all online then shops will continue to shut down.
‘The comeback of vinyl has made a little difference to us but the younger generation mainly buy new vinyl rather than the traditional ones we sell here. We don’t have the big overheads that other shops do, which helps, but you would not be able to make a living doing this. It just keeps us ticking over in retirement.’
Afia Khan, owner of emporium shop Just for You, which sells an eclectic mix of items and offers tarot reading, said having an online presence hasn’t made a difference to the business. ‘It’s been quiet but I don’t know if this is down to online taking off. We have a Facebook page but this hasn’t helped,’ Ms Khan said.
‘The situation is only going to get worse with the internet – gone are the days when people want to feel something in our business.’
n MONDAY: The spotlight falls on Cosham’s shops.
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