Charity shop image is hurting Weston - traders
PUBLISHED: 08:00 09 October 2013
WESTON needs to rid itself of its ‘pound shop and charity shop mentality’ if it is to thrive in the future.
Independent business will be lost and High Street firms will continue to stay away unless more is done to make rates and rents affordable, according to market traders.
Prolonged difficulties in getting retailers to sign up to Dolphin Square, the loss of big name brands from the town centre and the ongoing failure to lease out TJ Hughes are selling Weston short of what it deserves, according to The Market Place owner Sarah Schranz.
She, along with other former Dolphin Square traders, opened the indoor market in St James Street almost a year ago to the day and she is increasingly frustrated by the lack of progress in Weston.
She said: “Why would Debenhams want to come to a town which is full of pound shops, charity shops and cheap clothes?
“It makes investors think that this is all people in Weston want but if you ask them they go to Cabot Circus. I don’t think Weston people are happy with that type of stereotype.
“Someone needs to sit down and look at the town as a whole and think about how we keep people here. We seem to cater solely for holidaymakers but we are a town with a massive population.”
Difficulties in attracting major retailers to the £45million Dolphin Square development has seen McLaren Life ask North Somerset Council for permission to build the leisure facilities first.
The vacant TJ Hughes unit, which has stood empty for more than two years, also shows no sign of being filled despite positive noises from the letting agents earlier this summer.
Mrs Schranz said: “It’s great to hear the leisure area will be built. But will the retail site lay empty for years with hoardings up?
“The work should be part way to being finished. It has a catastrophic effect on this area and hasn’t been reflected in our rates that have gone up by thousands of pounds.
“I don’t believe there’s any interest (in TJ Hughes) once they hear what the overheads are, problems in the surrounding area and the footfall. Nobody wants to be the first one here.”
While the market has grown over the past 12 months and now sells everything from DIY tools to baby clothes, Sarah believes St James Street needs to become a pedestrian-only zone. That would connect the empty TJ Hughes store, Dolphin Square and independent businesses with the High Street.
However, despite traders agreeing to pay for some of the work themselves, North Somerset Council highways department has rebuffed plans.
Alan Bytheway, who also helps run the Market Place, said the council claims not to have the money to pay for improvements.