Has £80,000 scheme to boost business helped shops in your town?
PUBLISHED: 11:11 09 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:11 09 August 2019
Archant Norfolk 2018
A scheme costing more than £80,000 to boost trade in market towns has been criticised as poor value for money.
The Shopappy website was launched last year by Breckland Council in an attempt to regenerate high-streets in the district, which allows stores to sell their products online.
Since its launch, Shopappy has had more than one million views and it has been estimated that 18pc of all online browsers have then decided to visit the stores in person.
But Terry Jermy, Breckland councillor for the Thetford Burrell ward, has questioned whether this scheme is value for money after he submitted a freedom of information request to find out how much it has cost.
The FOI revealed that the total cost of all expenditures, including digital campaigns and the allocated spend for its second year, will come to £84,438.
Mr Jermy said: "We must ask if the council can demonstrate how they think it's been successful, and whether it's been value for money.
"Unless it's actually helping retailers one has to question that level of investment that has gone into it.
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"It's absolutely crucial that we get this right and the money we spend will generate success."
A spokesman from Breckland said: "Market towns across the country have suffered decreasing footfall and sales over the last 10 years, partly due to the impact of online shopping.
"Shopappy gives our independent shops a chance to raise awareness of their products to a much wider audience."
But Mr Jermy argues that for Thetford, with only a small number of independent businesses, the site has not made a big enough impact.
The Labour councillor added: "Our town centres are so important and we have to get it right but Shopappy isn't the answer.
"Labour member's proposed an amendment to the budget asking for £5,000 for each market town which could have gone a long way, but that was turned down. We need community-based solutions."
Children's clothing store, Precious Bear, based in Thetford town centre, disagrees and said that Shopappy has increased its business and brought more people into the store.
Owner Magda Teixeira said: "I know other people might disagree as I have spoken to other businesses, but I personally think it's been amazing.
"I'm not making any sales on the site but they are coming into my stores and increasing my footfall. My business has grown because of it."