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Weekly Edition - Publication date:- 2018-20-01

-en Southport & Mersey Reporter

Local News Report  - Mobile Page

 

Is Southport Town Centre Doomed?

IN February 2017, according to the Southport BID, Southport was "bucking the trend" of declining footfall. The Southport Bid said footfall in January 2017 was 6% higher than it was over the same period in 2016, for the Town Centre, but will 2018 show the same? This year we are seeing lots of closures of small and big businesses, including the family run party balloons specialists, Clouds, who were based, on Hill Street, and also Argos, on Lord Street. Both are moving out of the Town Centre, with Clouds moving out of Southport and Argos continuing to trade from Kew. So why are businesses moving out of Town Centres or shutting up for good? The fact some have suggested is that out of town shopping centres, like Kew are now the new high streets, as people can park for free. We have also seen a massive rush to turn offices into flats. This is not just in Southport, but all over the UK, due to new rules that making it easier to convert commercial sites to residential property and that new stamp duty rules make flats a better investment, on paper, than offices. Small issues like this have huge impacts on local economies. For example, one consequence of fewer offices is less office workers spending money in the shops, at lunchtime. This small drop in ready cash, when magnified, leads to closures, with surviving small businesses covering less of the range of goods what people may want, so forcing customers to go elsewhere. Ok, this is a simplified, but a realistic, look at what is happening. When you then factor in people having less and less cash, the result is a dramatic decline of local shops and of our high streets. It's not as clear cut, as you also have to add in issues including rising wages, increasing pension scheme contributions and NI issues and... But the fact is, Southport's and other Council and Property owners need to dramatically change the way they work, or risk losing retail altogether from our Town Centres. Pushing people online and to out of town developments will only result in a dependency on large national and international firms, stripping our local economy of its cash. The lack of availability for small firms to get premises, with the loss of trading estates and small shops, combined with London rated rentals demanded by many of those that are available, is likely to result in oligopoly. Only Large operators will stand a chance. Local government and especially the UK Government must do more to help small businesses, as they keep the money in our economy and they form an important safeguard by lessening the consequences of fallout from sudden massive collapses, such as that which has happened with the demise of the building firm Carillion. If a small business fails, the impact is bad, but far less than the repercussions when larger firms go under. Small firms tend to keep money in the local economy and also deliver more unique experiences for tourists. A Tesco store, for example, is the almost the same across any city or town, but a small shop can, and often does, offer a variety and experience the bigger shops don't offer. This has been shown time after time again, in recent years, yet banks and government still see bigger as better. Why is this? Could it be money or is it that bigger firms have a bigger say, as they employ more people than a corner shop? Should all the small firms make better use of the likes of Trade Bodies to get a voice, like employees use Unions, or will they just be ignored? Well, the big new shiny out of town super store may be bringing in 150 new jobs, but the local shop only has 6 jobs... Interestingly, since 2008 the continuing financial crisis is radically changing the world of work. Should there be significant interventions to address the grievances of small businesses, for example helping them to develop IT skills and online shopping to help them compete against the international firms who often have undercutting advantages of scale over small businesses . Incidentally, a significant number of these giants contribute a much lower return in taxes relative to their takings, to the national economy, and their profits, gleaned within the UK, will be spread far beyond these shores. Are large multinationals now too big to challenge? Are we now too dependent on them to risk it ? Do you have any views on this? If yes, please email them to us, via:- News24@SouthportReporter.com we would love to know if you have any ideas that could help us to save out traditional High Streets.

 

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