We all know the issues that are surrounding town centres up and down the country, retail is a tricky place to be, but is this something that we can change? Many retailers believe that price changes in parking fees in Herefordshire have certainly added extra pressure on our small towns over the past few years.
For us, at The Mousetrap Cheese Shop, I do believe the introduction of new fees in Leominster had a palpable impact on our takings, why pay to come into town for a few bits and a coffee if you can pop to the supermarket for free?
Now, this is not a sob story, we’re OK, we’re not about to close and we sell online which I personally feel is a must in this day and age. BUT, if we’re not careful we will start to lose some of the very many vibrant little businesses in Leominster and this doesn’t only impact on the shop owners and suppliers, it will impact everyone. A vibrant town brings in visitors, no doubt. These visitors spend money on goods (keeping shops open), food and drink (keeping a great selection of pubs and restaurants for us all to enjoy). All of this brings money into our local economy. The council gets more rates. All the owners and employees of these businesses, as well as the garages they use, the printers, the accountants, the schools, (the list is endless), benefit from more money which flows further into the local economy.
Fortunately, Herefordshire Council are thinking outside the box and last month made the brave decision to trial a Saturday of free parking throughout the County. I’m not sure if there was any surprise amongst us retailers when it was a great success! Town was buzzing and retailers have reported up to 60% increase in turnover. There were definite teething problems regarding signage etc, but it was certainly a very interesting trial. So, although it was obviously great for a day, the question is, would a long-term free parking schedule make so much of a difference on a regular basis?
We’re not sitting around waiting for help though, the Shopping in Leominster business group has been a great collaboration, winning awards such as the GB High Street Rising Star, putting on events and a mass of social media work behind the scenes, raising Leominster’s profile over the past 3 years. The costs and time of this work however are often borne by the few, which has further implications when a little revenue is needed to cover these costs. Incentives such as being part of the Shopping in Leominster voucher scheme are part of a wider business group model that will support and advertise the town as well as hopefully paying its own way.
Is this all enough to keep our town thriving?
I feel conscious change in the shopping habits of the public is certainly needed, a return to the days of using the butcher, the baker and the cheese shop (apologies candlestick maker). After all, in Leominster, is 80p so bad for a few hours of gentle wandering around our lovely town! Visitors are always amazed at what we’ve got, a vibrant town, full of well-priced, interesting independent businesses. If only more locals heard the amount of times I hear ‘I wish we had a town like this where we’re from’ maybe the town would be a little more treasured…
To buy good cheese for UK delivery visit www.mousetrapcheese.co.uk, to buy Shopping in Leominster Vouchers visit www.shoppinginleominsterHR6.com, or better still come and visit us in Leominster, you can buy vouchers in Jumping Ships on the High Street and spend them in loads of businesses around the town, (including Mousetrap of course) we’ll see you there!
MD Mousetrap Cheese