Concern for small businesses over Christmas trade

Rowlands Road, Worthing's West End, where some of its traders have experienced a tough build-up to Christmas
Rowlands Road, Worthing's West End, where some of its traders have experienced a tough build-up to Christmas

Small businesses in Worthing have issued a “use us or lose us” plea, as trading continues to remain tough for a number of firms in the vital run-up to Christmas.

Despite firms expressing determination to battle an unsettled economy and specialist retailers revealing optimism in recent weeks, fears have been raised over firms being hit by high parking prices and competition from internet-based traders.

With Chichester offering all-day parking for £3.50, Worthing’s much-criticised NCP parks cost three times as much, which stores believe has had a damaging effect on sales. This comes despite 10p per hour for four hour parking available on Saturday, December 15 and the following Saturday).

Paul O’Brien, manager of Candy Love in Montague Street expressed his concern.

He said: “We’ve been here for five years now and this has been our worst. From the independent traders I’ve been speaking to it seems most appear to be about 25 per cent down on their takings compared to this time last year.

“It’s the parking here that is the main issue. I’ve seen ads for free parking in Horsham, but in Worthing it costs up to £11 a day if you want to park in the centre. Why would you do that when you could go to Asda and park for free? We’ll carry on here though, as I love what I do.”

Alex Scutt, of Type 40 Toys in Rowlands Road, highlighted ongoing concerns regarding the West End of Worthing, which he felt was continuing to suffer. He said: “Trade has been quiet here, with people now often opting to buy second hand toys as stocking fillers rather than new items. The shops round here have been affected and we have lost about five or six in Rowlands Road recently.”

Tina Tilley, of Worthing and Adur Chamber of Commerce, said: “I think a lot of businesses were not expecting to be as busy as last year.

“However, there are quite a few firms that are seeing turnovers increase, though are having to work even harder to do so. The retail sector has been hit the hardest and I suspect it is online competition that is responsible for that.

“People should support their local shops or we will not have a successful town centre. It’s our specialist shops that can offer customer service and products not often available at larger stores.”

However, others expressed optimism about Christmas trade, including Alex Cockburn of music store We Have Sound Guitars in the Royal Arcade.

He said: “I have been here for the last year and it has been great. Things have definitely improved here, with only one unit being unoccupied now.”

Jonathan Pressley, of G H Pressley, felt trade in the town had been affected by the high price of parking, but revealed his own store’s fortunes had been strong, with high end jewellery sales being up 30 per cent.

Caroline Wilbor, of The Wool Bar, in Warwick Street, believed 2012 had been a “hard year” for many. She said: “Because we are a specialist retailer we’ve been able to keep going. It’s not just about being a 9-5 retailer any more. We run courses on teaching people to knit, but it is a 24-7 job. Worthing needs its independent shops and I do feel that it’s very much a case of”use them or lose them.”