Sheringham shops urged to ‘work together’ to fight Tesco and internet shopping
With Tesco's store looming in 2013 and internet shopping on the rise, Sheringham's traders have been urged to 'work together' to keep the town centre's heart beating strongly.
Sheringham Chamber of Trade has issued a clarion call to traders to stay one step ahead of the double threat to their viability.
Chamber secretary Andy Bullen said: 'Shops have to change. They can't just stay as they are.'
And the public is being urged to get behind them by choosing to shop in independent high street shops - rather than opt for superstores or online purchases.
Mr Bullen said: 'You can't stop things happening. People will decide what they want to do. Some people might decide they want to get a penny off a tin of beans.
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'But it's not a level playing field. Internet traders' business rates are lower, they can purchase in bulk, they don't have to worry about car parking fees.
'More and more, customers are using high street shops as a viewing platform to look at a product and decide whether to buy it online.
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'We want the traders and businesses to work closely together with the local authorities to promote the town and to think outside the box in a changing retail world.'
He added: 'If it continues, there is a danger that Sheringham will lose its character. People come here because it is special - not because it is just like where they came from.'
Barry Starling, chamber chairman, said: 'It's time to sell Sheringham to residents and visitors to make them aware of the positive things.
'It has the best beaches on the north Norfolk coast, a traditional town centre, good car parking and easy access to the shops.'
He added: 'It's not a clone town. It is unique - and needs to stay that way for it to remain special.'
Mr Starling suggested charging points for mobility scooters, better access to shops and better information about car parking and town attractions.
He also thought it was possible for traders to get together to offer money off when shoppers bought linked products from their stores.
He added: 'We shouldn't be embarrassed to sell Sheringham in every way. It's a fantastic town.'
But he warned: 'If you look into the future and all the independent shops have closed in Sheringham, Cromer, Holt, North Walsham and Fakenham, you will end up with clone stores everywhere.'
Mr Bullen said the double call had been made in order to 'get reaction', and added: 'We want people's feedback. What do consumers and retailers think about what needs to be done?'
Mr Starling said: 'Ultimately, this is about keeping Sheringham unique. And cooperation is the key. We have to work together for one single aim - to make this the place to work, shop, live and enjoy.'