Traders in East Anglia are closing ranks and taking a united approach to tackling the ongoing challenges facing the high street.

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In Southwold and Cromer, businesses have come together to fight dips in footfall and the rise of online shopping by launching marketing campaigns and discount schemes.

As part of an ongoing drive to promote the unique character of Southwold, the chamber of trade has pushed its “My Southwold” scheme that gives shoppers discounts when they shop with independent businesses.

And in north Norfolk, a clutch of businesses have come together to form The East Side Cromer, an association that aims to promote businesses that may have been overlooked by shoppers in the town.

Guy Mitchell, chairman of the Southwold and District Chamber of Trade, said the My Southwold scheme had helped independent businesses to capture sales over the Christmas period.

He said: “In general, Southwold was probably amongst the winners and the losers over Christmas.

“Late November and early December sales were poor with businesses attributing the lower sales to both the internet shopping and poor weather.

“In the period immediately either side of Christmas, however, customers demonstrated strong support for independent businesses. “In contrast to the packed shopping malls of city shopping, smaller towns like Southwold offer a more traditional and relaxed atmosphere enabling people to take time and feel less pressured about shopping and consumers responded well to this.

“Many customers used their My Southwold cards in participating outlets and comments from people made it clear that they valued having the opportunity to browse in smaller shops which provided a different offering to the larger High Street chains.”

Meanwhile, The East Side Cromer association hopes to boost awareness of the shops in the town with the launch of an eight-page leaflet circulated to homes and businesses in Mundesley, North Walsham and Aylsham.

Marcus Hickling, who owns Artyfax on Church Street, is one of 15 traders taking part in the scheme.

He said: “To be honest, some traders are in despair at the moment.

“I know that there are businesses that, if the current situation continues, will have to shut. Then we will end up with empty shops.

“It would be easier for some to close their shops and just trade from their websites.

“This is a pattern everywhere.”

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