Hadleigh traders have shown there are reasons to be optimistic about the future of town retailers, according to South Suffolk MP Tim Yeo.
During a visit to several independent shops in the High Street on Friday, Mr Yeo discussed the issues and concerns affecting businesses and said he felt Hadleigh was doing well.
“Hadleigh has a very special high street which attracts people from outside of the town with a wonderful variety of attractive shops,” said Mr Yeo.
The visit was part of the Federation of Small Businesses’ “Keep Trade Local” campaign, which encourages shoppers to support independent retailers. Robin Twigge, regional chairman of the FSB, accompanied Mr Yeo.
The pair visited The Jolly Meat Company, Hadleigh Pet Supplies, Tatty Broyds, Partridge’s Farm Shop and Plum Green. They spoke to the owners about their concerns, which included free parking provision, the cost of business rates and competition from Morrison’s supermarket, which opened in Calais Street in January, and the proposed Tesco supermarket.
“It seemed that there had been some initial downturn in footfall in the town centre but shops which sell specialist goods or have a particular market reported that their business had recovered for the most part,” said Mr Yeo.
“There was further evidence that business rates are a problem for a number of shops and of the concerns of traders in the town about what may happen in the medium term.”
However, he added that Hadleigh traders’ concerns seemed “less acute” than their Sudbury counterparts, following his meeting with around 40 Sudbury residents and businesses last month.
“There is a confidence that the quality of Hadleigh’s high street will continue to entice people into the town,” he said. “It is a reason not to be too depressed.”
Mr Yeo said he would add the feedback to evidence from Sudbury traders and present the findings to Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Mr Twigge said: “We have called for councils to use discretionary rate relief powers to help local businesses and ease the disproportionate burden rates place on them.”