September 24 2014 Latest news:
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Fresh concerns were voiced this week for the future of Southwold’s independent traders after it emerged that two new chains are set to open stores in the town.
The children’s clothing shop Little Joule is moving into the former launderette in High Street while the fashion retailer Seasalt is taking over what used to be the Blue Lighthouse restaurant in East Street.
They are the latest national companies to announce plans to open stores in Southwold – fuelling fears about increasing rents and the effect on hard-pressed locally-owned businesses.
It comes after Waterstones opened a store in the former tourist information office under the name the Southwold Bookshop last month and follows the closure of the long-established independent retailer Eco-Electrical after the rent more than doubled on its Market Place premises.
Town councillor Will Windell said the latest developments were not welcome.
He said: “It is a disappointment for two reasons. It means fewer local independent shops and as more chains come in the more the rents go up. Financially for a small town it has a big impact.”
John Perkins, of the Southwold and Reydon Society, added: “The danger is Southwold is going to lose its character, which is the whole reason people come here.”
But the company that owns the buildings now let to Little Joule and Seasalt, Gentian Development Group, said it wanted to invest further in Southwold and was on the look-out for new properties to develop for national retailers, with at least three chains looking for a presence in the town.
The properties Gentian has bought and redeveloped in Southwold also include the one let to WH Smith, which Gentian no longer owns – and the one taken over amid much controversy by Costa Coffee.
However, Nick Ekins, managing director of Gentian, disputed claims it was behind the problems in Southwold.
He said: “I think it is the market. It is also a question of the quality of retailing. If there is a choice between a national chain and an excellent independent retailer I know what I would do.”
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