Two of Norwich’s independent retailers have ducked out of the high street and taken their businesses online in a bid to weather the tough trading conditions.

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Shona Richards, project co-ordinator for Norwich Lanes, said Antidote Vintage Fashion and Follies have left the historic quarter over Christmas to become online-only enterprises.

It comes as independent traders face an increasingly harsh climate as they juggle rents and business rates amid cut-backs in consumer spending.

But Richard Coleman, director of SME at Zurich Insurance, said small-medium enterprises can take advantage of changes in the High Street – if they emerge.

Miss Richards said: “With trading over Christmas it has been a mixed bag for the Lanes. Trading conditions remain difficult due to the economy but in the lead up to Christmas there were quite a few wet weekends which may have put people off further.

“Some businesses have fared better than others. We have lost Antidote Vintage Fashion and Follies over the period who have both moved to online retail whilst other businesses such as Franks Bar and The Book Hive did quite well.

“It is obvious that people are cutting back and being cautious with their money. We would just implore shoppers to make sure that they support their independent local businesses by spending their money with them rather than in the chains.”

Meanwhile, Mr Coleman said: “High streets up and down the UK are currently undergoing a profound change. It’s important to recognise, however, that change also brings significant opportunities. SMEs are already embracing change on a daily basis; our own research shows that over half (54pc) of UK SMEs believe the high street as we currently know it will transform by 2020, being replaced by a “virtual high street”, hybrid business models and new potential types of high-street businesses.

“In addition, 70pc believe traditional high street SMEs must radically change their customer experience to compete with online purchasing by 2020. Other opportunities include the opening up of overseas trade and the ability to reach new customers.

“But as SMEs embrace this evolution, there are unavoidable risks that must be considered, such as the ability to speedily adopt these new technologies.”

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