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Traders told they must up their game

Town shops urged to make most of business market brings

BUSTLING: Shopkeepers say the town is busier since the market has moved
BUSTLING: Shopkeepers say the town is busier since the market has moved

TRADERS need to up their game if they want to survive Herne Bay market’s move to the town centre, according to a business leader. Nigel Hancock, of the Bay Independent Retail Group, told members they had to capitalise on the extra customers in the town by improving what they offer — or risk closing down. The group’s meeting, at the Wine Bar in Mortimer Street, heard reactions from bus inesses had been mixed, but that most members felt ready to embrace the challenge. Mr Hancock said:

“What this does is expose businesses that are under par who have perhaps been resting on their laurels and waiting for people to come in. It does expose those holes.”

His warnings were echoed by Heather Hunwick, of Café Latino, who said it was no longer good enough just to open the doors and expect customers to come in. And Daniel Peters, of The Studio, said traders had to act to make sure both the market and the town centre thrived. He said:

“We need to get smart and utiise the people in the streets better.”

Businesses were also urged to recognise the positives of the move, rather than continue with gripes or focus on negatives.

Grievances

Outspoken critic John Moore, who recently complained that stallholders were given free parking, walked out of the meeting after being told it was not the right forum to air his grievances. Linda Cameron, of Maison Classique in William Street, said:

“I am hearing lots of anti-market things. I feel it has been a really good decision to move the market. Even if you are not taking money directly from it, having it there does give us a presence. This week we had a bumper Saturday, but that was down to the weather as well. On the whole I think it is a really good move. The atmosphere in the street was amazing. Any exposure you can get as a retailer is good.”

Councillor Andrew Cook told the meeting the market had been declining over the last ten years, and that if it had not moved it would have closed. He said:

“What I have found is that 40 per cent of people at the market were from outside the area. The big problem is attracting people from Herne Bay. They come out of their door and they get into their car and they drive somewhere else. It is working well. I think it will work better in the future when the season proper starts, but you have to capitalise on it.”

But not everyone was positive. Graham Harmsworth, who runs Music Bay in Mortimer Street, said his takings were down beoause customers were struggling to find somewhere to park, and Mr Hancock pledged to monitor the situation. Cllr Cook said there were more spaces that could be created around the town in the future. He said:

“It is uneconomic to do at the moment because we don’t get the cars, but there ar spaces. The Downs could be one way up Beacon Hill, taking out a very small part of the green area for parking, or Brunswick Square could be one-way with spaces.”

At a council meeting the day before, town manager Chris West said both businesses and market traders were benefiting. He added:

“One trader has been on the market for ten years and he has never taken as much money as they did on that first day. One business saw a 60 per cent increase over the three Saturdays.”

Herne Bay Times, June 4th 2014

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