Southwold town mayor reaches out to chain shops

The High Street in Southwold on a busy summers day in August.Picture: James Bass

The High Street in Southwold on a busy summers day in August.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

For a town which prides itself its unique offer of independent shops, the arrival of chain stores like WHSmith, Waterstones and Costa Coffee has not always been welcome.

Melanie Tucker by Stephen Wolfenden

Melanie Tucker by Stephen Wolfenden - Credit: Archant

But now, Southwold's mayor is reaching out to the town's chain stores with an appeal to 'collaborate and co-operate for the benefit of the town' with smaller businesses.

Melanie Tucker is urging the chain stores in the town to offer their expertise to smaller stores, in the same way that Marks and Spencer has given shop layout and marketing advice to shops in Lowestoft.

She also encouraged them to contribute more to community events - saying it could not only benefit the town as a whole but enhance the chain stores' reputations.

'Southwold has always had a reputation for 'doing different',' Ms Tucker said.

'By working with local retailers, national brands in the high street can help us maintain our difference.

'By supporting local events like the community carol service or a high street event, national names can enhance perceptions of their brand at local level and nationally.

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'There is a place for both chain shops and local business on the High Street but it's key for both to collaborate and co-operate for the benefit of the town. Let us work together to maintain Southwold's strength and achieve our aim of a vibrant future for the town.'

Ms Tucker explained she thought local shops were 'very strong and well-run' - but that they could become collectively stronger with contributions from chain stores.

Clare Hart, 48, owner of Chapmans newsagents and part of the My Southwold team - an organisation that supports Southwold businesses - said: 'There are chains which do help us but lots of national shop managers have to get authorisation before they can take part.

'I think they should have a little pot of money which can be used at the manager's discretion for community activities.

'Southwold is a special town and by maintaining indie shops, the high street can continue to offer something different and keep the special character of the town.'

A spokesman for WHSmith said: 'WHSmith is committed to making a positive impact wherever it operates its stores.

'We recognise that our business plays an important role in local communities and we aim to do our best to support these communities while helping to maintain a vibrant retail environment.'

What do you think? Write, giving your full contact details, to: Eastern Daily Press, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE or email andrew.papworth@archant.co.uk

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