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Weekly Edition - Published 13 June 2015


Local News Report - Mobile Page


Is Formby's Village Canter doomed?

FORMBY has been a hidden gem for many years, due to its own independently local owned shops and businesses. That local nature gave the Village, and the once many non-Village Centre shops, a truly unique feel, which in turn has made the area into a true shopping haven for locals and tourists alike. The area from the 80's into early 2003, had, not one but several locally owned butchers, a few small hardware stores, dry cleaning, key cutting, clock repairers, jewellers, health food shops, a bakery, toy and bike shops, health stores, gift shops and many more. These businesses not only took money in from the local area, but also gave it back, resulting in many local events, sports' and social clubs benefiting from their support because most of that money was mainly spent locally by staff and owners. It is not simply the fault of the internet that Village trade has dropped, but it has contributed to it, as many businesses appear to have failed to adapt. In Formby, it is also a case of the Council's miss management of the Village. Too often they seemed to have systematically targeted local shops with such things as enforcement orders which prevented trades like the fruit and Vegetable displays on the massive pavements. There has been over enforcement of the signage rules coupled to an apparent lack of consultation, or even an understanding of the parking issues in the area. Add to that, a long list of other failures, it is no wonder that the rot started. The fact not 1 but 5 superstores were allowed to open between 1990 and 2000, one is now a nationally owned fitness centre! This has lead to the area losing its colour and life over a prolonged period of time causing the footfall to drop. Added to that are the successive rent increases by landlords, who seem too often over value the property, thus forcing businesses to close; many seem to have a reluctance to let to small businesses, through terms that cripple the growth of those businesses. All this has led to a rapid decline in the number of small local shops, with many non-central area shops closing for good, as on Edinburgh Road Raven Meols with some turned into houses and only a hair designer, "Gemini Hair Design", remaining. This loss has also impacted on the community, who now often, as being elderly, are forced to commute by car, or rely on local transport services, some charity run, to go out and do shopping. The loss of the small businesses has also led, not only to a decline in our areas unique identity, but also to the loss of its media, for the Formby Times , which was 1st published in 1893, along with others, as advertisement has dwindled. The loss of local media, that is funded via advertisements, at 1st glance might may not look bad, but it is another piece of our history that has gone causing our community to lose its voice and own identity. The internet has also had a role, with sites like ours affecting hardcopy, but even we are struggling to keep things local and keep funded. In part the reluctance by the remaining small businesses not to use or support local media via paid advertisement is putting added pressure on the remaining accredited media outlets like us. This is a very viscous circle, which, without government or local council support, will see local voices in the media getting lost, for national groups tend only to play with national groups and put prices well out of the reach of small local independent businesses. But if you are a small business, do you use the limited cash for an advertisement in the hopes that local people respond by coming in or use it to pay staff now and worry about funds tomorrow? Government is also to blame, by only helping new business to set up with grants and forgetting to help viable businesses who are already trading, yet struggling with short term problems due to showing a debit when applying for the very small number of grants available, that is if they are eligible or can afford to pay it back! Banks are also to blame for the fall in local businesses, by putting ever increasing hurdles in the way, so when businesses are in trouble, they see it as a way to generate profit in the short term or they are just not interested! The focus on national businesses and lack of understanding or thought about local business, not only risks the country being controlled by multi nationals, or foreign governments, but also more importantly it takes the cash out of local areas and out of the UK.           

Governments need to step in and help small businesses as well as banks who need to wise up, as a chain of independently run small shops in the long run is better than a chain of shops owned by 1 national or international group. If a small shop closes and other small shops are able to trade, then you do not lose as many jobs, but when a national closes you lose far more jobs, as they often have taken out the smaller shops before they themselves go under, leaving large vacant buildings that become a major headache for the local area. Small businesses also have to pay taxes locally, but many multi-nationals have not done so for years, so again this has lead to an uneven playing field. HSBC has even said this week:- ”The cost of doing business in the UK is far too high!” and that is the UK's biggest bank! The banks have ripped the nation off for years with the various methods like PPI to name just one scam, but what is given to small business to compensate for it? If you claim it back, you have to pay to do so, even if you make the claim yourself it is still hours you could have been doing something else to benefit your business. That should automatically be given back, without the requirement to claim for it, and it is not just business affected by PPI! Then you have the situation with large businesses continually failing to pay small businesses on time, and if a small business complains, they often lose the contract. These failures to pay often result in added costs for small businesses, who have to pay to chase up the payment, along with any costs incurred should they get overdrawn waiting for it. If lucky, and they have interest on the bank account, they do not get the small interest on that cash as well! Plus it can often result in shaky looking books, which to an investor, or bank, appears as if the small business is failing, resulting in problems in obtaining the likes of bridging loans. This has often resulted in small businesses being unable to invest and evolve quickly to the increasingly changing retail environment. All these factors contribute to high streets across the UK failing, not just in Formby. But one of the key factors in Formby and places like it, are the people who shop. They are often on extremely tight budgets and as most small shops have to buy goods at higher prices that the larger chains who buy in bulk, people naturally go to where they think they can get the best value for their cash. Sadly, it comes down to price and the perceived benefits and convenience of the likes of Tesco to going to a few shops on a high street for the same goods. In reality, you often get better service and products from small businesses, but with pressure on time and pockets, people often choose keeping it simple. Oddly, in Formby footfall in the large stores is not good ether, with one rumoured to be looking at closing in September or October this year, within the Village. If true, it will leave a massive blot on the landscape and that will increase the decline of the remaining stores, combined with the loss of free parking within the area if Sefton introduces the parking fees and restrictions. ”Enough is enough!” said 1 shop owner who wishes not to be named. ”It is not just Formby Books closing, other are soon to follow. We just can't take the pressure. If a large Superstore can't work, what hope have we? I get no time off for being sick. If I close I can't go on the dole straight away. I have no support and no help as an established small business, but I get all the pressure large businesses have and to top it off, a Council hell bent on closing us down and pushing trade out to a Town, or in our case, a Village, Supermarkets and Shopping Centres! No wonder why people are using the internet more and more. I can't even get help with my website, but big businesses can get grants for it!”

This video is what Formby Books has to say about the situation, taken since they officially announced that they are closing. Surely the bottom line has to be, we must "shop local" to preserve the independent shops that keep the money in the local economy and make the area unique. If you have any thoughts or views on this issue, please do email us today, via:-

Please find below the audio copy only, click here to see video, but please beware that some browsers / devices might not display the video.

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Southport Reporter (R) Bourder




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