FEW people would disagree with the wish to ensure that our town centres remain vibrant and attractive places to visit, and whilst the public are urged to use our local shops, most of the problems are outside their control.
Price is an important factor in many buying decisions for many, so the only way that a shop in town can compete with an online retailer is to make the buying process enjoyable, and the price differential to be zero or at least only marginal more.
It is agreed by all politicians that our antiquated system of business rates needs changing, but nothing is being done in what will undoubtedly be one of the worst periods that retailers have experienced.
Simply put, local taxes should be on profits and not by the physical space they are occupying, and also the likes of Amazon would be taxed on their UK earnings rather than notionally operating from other countries.
It was sheer stupidity to impose a massive increase in parking charges in Eastbourne at the worst possible time and demonstrates a complete lack of understanding in those at East Sussex County Council, and in any case, why them?
Eastbourne should be responsible for setting our parking rates, and also, how about some free parking for maximum of twenty minutes for those that just want to pop into one shop?
We have far too many empty shops in Eastbourne, so why don’t enterprising people take them over?
The answer is simple, the asking rents are often too high with landlords being greedy and aided and abetted by commercial landlords who are only interested in maximising the rent and not being concerned if it is sustainable for the tenant.
It is a fact that many landlords would rather have an empty premise rather than reducing the rent so that the value looks better on their balance sheet.
One solution would be for empty premises be charged an extra tax if they were not re-let in three or four months.
Finally, we come to the quality of the shops here in Eastbourne.
I can remember the shops before the Arndale Centre was built, and they were infinitely better than those today,.
They sold better quality goods, most gave a good, personalised service and many were locally owned instead of all the chains making our town clones of others.
To sum up, protecting and supporting our shops in the town is only partially down to us, but the major job is for our politicians both nationally and locally to get their acts together and actually do something rather than just talking about it.
The recipe is clear, and if the retailers can ensure good staff training with the aim that shopping should be an enjoyable experience, then we the public can do our bit in supporting the town’s shops.
By Martin Wellings. owner of Personal Service Travel in Grove Road, Eastbourne.