The Chamber was asked for a statement in response to the latest retail vacancy rates across our town. This is what we said:
Craig McGowan, President of the Chamber said: “Haslemere, like many other areas of the country, has been hit badly by the pandemic. Vacancy rates of retail premises across the town are higher at present, but statistics only show part of the picture and the Chamber believes there is much to be positive about as we come out of lockdown.
Several currently empty premises are undergoing refurbishment in readiness for opening and there are enquiries on others. Our view is that come mid-spring the vacancy rate will be back into single figures. With The Coppa Club opening in the former Georgian Hotel premises and a new restaurant in the old Barclays Bank building, the attractiveness of Haslemere as a destination to work, rest and play will increase over the coming months.”
A Chamber retailers group is developing a programme of events and ideas to enhance trading and encourage footfall in the town. We are working closely with the town council and supporting the return of the Farmers Market on the first Saturday of each month to add to the trading dynamic.
Peter Jones, owner of The Sportslocker, who is heading up the Chamber’s retail recovery group, added: “There is an excellent buzz around the town with retailers preparing to re-open and welcome back their customers. With summer just around the corner, our shops are looking better than ever as many retailers have taken the opportunity to refurbish and decorate their premises in lockdown. Speaking to local retailers, some were disappointed that the recent Budget did not address reform of Business Rates and Directors of small businesses were not fully supported.”
The Chamber is supporting the significant community effort to enhance the attractiveness of the town from the Weyhill In Bloom group who are filling the shop windows of the empty premises with some eye-catching displays.
We anticipate that the response from local retailers and residents as restrictions are lifted will be one of relief and reaffirmation that shopping local is by far the easiest and best way of preserving our beloved High Street and Wey Hill shopping areas.
There are opportunities for businesses beyond the retail sector as the pandemic has embedded a more flexible, remote-working culture. Haslemere boasts dedicated workspace for those who don’t want to work from home at the Haslemere Business Centre. This Chamber initiative provides serviced office space to rent on a desk-by-desk basis and has been a springboard for local businesses over the last five years.