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Small shops ready to fight credit crunch

PUBLISHED: 09:00 05 September 2008 | UPDATED: 07:38 01 August 2010

AN independent shop owner has issued a bleak “use us or lose us” plea to the shoppers of Beccles.

Douglas Johnstone, of the Gazette Bookshop in The Walk, fears that the credit crunch will ultimately force independent shops out of the town as they can not compete with the resources of the chain stores that have been moving in.

AN independent shop owner has issued a bleak “use us or lose us” plea to the shoppers of Beccles.

Douglas Johnstone, of the Gazette Bookshop in The Walk, fears that the credit crunch will ultimately force independent shops out of the town as they can not compete with the resources of the chain stores that have been moving in.

However, other independent shop owners in the town have been quick to dismiss these views, and whilst they agree that the credit crunch has made life more difficult, they do not blame this on the larger stores.

The Gazette Bookshop has been in the town for 36 years, but Mr Johnstone feels that he will be forced to close within two months if things do not start getting better.

“Small shops in Beccles are finding it increasingly difficult to survive because of the credit crunch,” he said. “They can't really ride through these economic difficulties like stores like WHSmith or the Edinburgh Woollen Mill. We just haven't got the resources of the chain stores that have deep pockets, that can pool their resources.

“I think in the next year or so Beccles will be transformed into a town of chain stores, it will be just another town like any other town in the country.”

However whilst other shop owners agree that rising rent prices and less disposable income for customers is a problem, the majority do not blame competition from chain stores.

Jane Roberts, owner of Sweet Memories in New Market, cited Tesco as an example of a chain store that helped her business. She said: “I'm still busy but the profit margin has gone down. I still think Tesco provides good parking and I get a lot of customers who park in Tesco, and then come in and go back to Tesco afterwards.

“We do get a lot of local support, we've got a lot of regular customers that won't shop anywhere else.”

Meanwhile Adrian Keeble, owner of Country Cards, agreed: “Our sales are down by 40pc from three or four years ago, but I don't think it's anything to do with chain stores. People are spending less but I think everyone's in the same boat whether it's an independent shop or Jarrolds.”

Christine Pinsent, Beccles Business Association chairman, said that Beccles independent shops were good enough to compete with the town's chain stores anyway. She said: “The credit crunch has hit everyone all at levels and for small businesses it is never easy, however as we always do, we must continue to give good quality service and exceptional customer care to ensure that our customers return and keep coming back, look at new angles connected with our business and increase what we are good at.

“It is also educating our customers that the 'Big Boys,' as in the multi national companies, are not always the cheapest and best value, you always need to shop around and check, and you will be surprised what is the best!”

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