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‘It is heartbreaking for us’ - WH Smith in Dereham warns that it could shut its doors within six weeks

PUBLISHED: 07:42 26 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:57 26 April 2018

Running the WHSmith store in Dereham are family members (from left) Chris, Maria, Phil and James Stow. Picture: Ian Burt

Running the WHSmith store in Dereham are family members (from left) Chris, Maria, Phil and James Stow. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2017

One of the newest businesses in the centre of Dereham could close its doors for good after staff revealed that they are struggling to connect with the community.

The WH Smith Local on Dereham’s High Street has been open for less than a year but the Stow family, who work full time at the store, have warned that unless residents start using it they could be gone within six weeks.

“It is heartbreaking for us,” said Phil Stow, who works alongside his wife Maria and their sons Chris and James.

“We sold a house in Kent and chose to come here as we have family in Norfolk but every week our profit is less and less. I know that WH Smith is watching our performance and a number of other big retailers have also been watching Dereham closely.

“If we have to close our doors due to lack of business, then big name retailers are likely to look at Dereham and say well if WH Smith can’t make it why should we invest there.”

The new WHSmith store in Dereham is now open. Picture: Ian BurtThe new WHSmith store in Dereham is now open. Picture: Ian Burt

The family said they are confused about why the business has failed to connect with residents and said there is a feeling that some of Dereham’s residents look at the store negatively because they are not from county.

“It feels like there is a bit of a negative vibe towards us because we are not from Norfolk and people think we are taking something away from them because we carry a brand name,” said Mr Stow.

“But what a lot of people don’t realise is we are a local business, a franchise of WH Smith, we are not part of the chain and because of that we are able to tailor our store to what people want – but they need to come in and let us know what that is.

“Bottom line now is if people don’t use us they’ll lose us.”

Running the WHSmith store in Dereham are family members (from left) Chris, James, Maria and Phil Stow. Picture: Ian BurtRunning the WHSmith store in Dereham are family members (from left) Chris, James, Maria and Phil Stow. Picture: Ian Burt

Town and district councillor, Phillip Duigan, said the struggle to lift sales at the store shows the council needs to look at how to encourage people to circulate wider parts of Dereham.

“The length of the High Street is a problem as most people spend their time around the post office while WH Smith is located at the opposite end,” he said.

“I think this news is very unfortunate. It is a small business that we hoped would spread its roots. It is very difficult times on high street and nationally we really have to think about what we are going to do to save our high streets.”

Breckland councillor says local businesses are good for the town

Councillor Adrian Stasiak of Breckland Council, said: “It is disappointing to hear that this locally-owned shop may be struggling. It is important that across the district everybody remembers to use their local businesses, or we risk losing the shops, restaurants, cafes and other businesses from our towns and villages. I hope residents will show their support for this relatively new shop and perhaps talk to the owners about any other services and products they could provide that would meet the local community’s needs.

“As a council, we’re working hard to support our local independent traders to thrive, as it is good for local people, good for our towns and rural villages, and good for the Breckland economy. For example, we recently launched our ShopAppy.com initiative, which enables shoppers to browse their nearby independent stores online and make purchases. As a locally-owned business, this particular shop would be eligible to join so we hope they will consider taking advantage of this offer.”

Dereham Mayor Hilary Bushell also expressed her disappointment, saying the closure would be a “sad loss” for the High Street.

Tell us what you think about the closure of WH Smith by emailing reporter Steve Shaw and tell us why you haven’t used the store by taking part in our online poll.

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