WHSmith store heading to Southwold

High street store chain WHSmith has confirmed it is to open a branch in Southwold in the premises vacated by independent bookshop Bookthrift last month.

WHSmith has promised to 'make a positive contribution to the diversity of retail and employment opportunities' when it is due to open its doors at the end of November in the Market Place.

However the new store has raised fears it may imopact on other independent traders and could end making Southwold look a clone high street market town.

Mayor John Windell hoped the high street could nevertheless maintain its inimitable character. He said: 'We don't like to see empty shops but we do have a problem with the town losing its charm by looking like any other.'

Mr Windell said he was glad to see the return of a bookshop to Southwold but expressed concern about trade being deflected away from the town's existing newsagents.

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Peter Hart, who runs High Street newsagent Chapmans, said: 'It seems they are moving into small towns where it's easier to compete with independent shops.

'Business is fairly buoyant for us but there is no denying it will have an impact on sales of fixed price items.

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'We have a loyal following and hope they get behind us.'

A WHSmith spokeswoman said: 'The high street location of the new WHSmith store should increase choice for local customers and help draw a wider range of shoppers to the town.

'Our high street stores typically co-exist alongside independent retailers, offering local customers the opportunity to choose between the different product ranges offered by the different stores.

'We would hope that the arrival of WHSmith in Southwold would complement what is currently available and benefit local shoppers.'

Last month, the town's only remaining bookshop, Bookthrift, became the third local stockist to close in a year.

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