Shoppers urged to keep it local and give My Southwold vouchers this Christmas

Sallie Smith (left) and Morgan Richards with the 'My Southwold' vouchers to encourage shoppers to use independent traders...

Sallie Smith (left) and Morgan Richards with the 'My Southwold' vouchers to encourage shoppers to use independent traders in the town. - Credit: Nick Butcher

Shoppers in the Southwold area are being urged to keep it local this Christmas to support the town's independent businesses and ensure their money stays within the community.

The My Southwold team – set up by the town's chamber of commerce to manage the £10,000 Portas grant received last year – has been working on a range of initiatives to boost custom.

The group has now launched gift vouchers, available in denominations of £10, which can be spent at 22 independent Southwold businesses, including restaurants, cafés and gift, toy and clothing shops.

Morgan Richards, who is part of the My Southwold team along with Sallie Smith and Clare Hart, said: 'We're really keen to shout about how wonderful Southwold High Street is and how lucky we are to have lots of independent retailers.

'There has been a lot of press about Costa Coffee and other chain stores coming to Southwold. They are part of the modern day high street but we have also got some very strong independent businesses here.

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'We have a lot of tourists and people see Costa, recognise the branding and go there because it is easier. This is about saying we have to support independent retailers too. If we don't use them we will lose them, and there have been some that we have lost already over the last couple of years.'

She added: 'If you are going to spend £10 in the High Street, spend a My Southwold Voucher. It is going directly back into the local economy rather than going to a national chain.

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'We are having a big push on the vouchers before Christmas. They are a popular present so we're saying that if you are going to give vouchers at Christmas, think first about buying My Southwold vouchers which benefit the community too.'

The town council and more than 600 people objected to Costa Coffee's plans to take over the former Fanny & Frank store.

Despite the opposition, its plans were given the go-ahead by Waveney District Council's development control committee in August and the company's Southwold branch opened in February.

Mrs Richards, manager at Collen and Clare, added: 'Independent retailers don't have these great big companies behind them. Each pound you spend in an independent will go back into the community.

'The people who own the shops in Southwold send their children to school here and they shop here, so this pound keeps circulating in the town.'

The My Southwold team has also introduced a loyalty card that shoppers can use at a number of independent businesses to receive a discount or special offer.

Smaller versions of the loyalty cards are attached to the keys of local hotels and tourist accommodation to encourage visitors to think about where they spend their money.

A website has been set up and information about the scheme is included in the welcome packs provided for holidaymakers in their accommodation.

Funds have also been committed to next year's Southwold Arts and Music Festival, which will include a street festival in High Street.

The My Southwold team was praised for its innovative ideas by Portas town team manager Jonny Birkett when he met Mrs Smith for the first time this month.

Mrs Smith said: 'I had a meeting with the town team manager a couple of weeks ago. He had been to a lot of the towns that had money from Portas bid. He was impressed with how far we'd got compared to a lot of other towns. He said we had done well and there were things to look forward to in the future.

'We will certainly carry on once the Portas money has gone. The vouchers will continue and we are also looking at online shopping in terms of having a 'digital high street'. It is so important to have online presence and My Southwold could take that on board for smaller shops.'

The vouchers can be bought in person from Chapmans, Spots and the tourist information office in High Street. They can also be purchased over the phone from Chapmans on 01502 722388.

Participating retailers include the Amber Shop, Beaches and Cream, Blyth Hotel, Buckenham Gallery, Buckenham Tea Rooms, Chapmans, Coasters, Collen and Clare, Conrucopia, Eco Power and Light, Foxtail and Lily, Fromus Vets, High Tide, Little Shop, Mumford, Oscar and Rose, No1 St James, Number 51, Randolph Hotel, Sports, Sutherland House and Two Magpies.

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