It’s interesting to read the comments on social media when a shop closes, or turns to a leisure or hospitality venue. There are so many saying “we need more shops” , “the council should open new shops” or “there is nothing to come into town for these day.”
The reduction in premises used for retail is not unique to Worthing as High Streets are currently undergoing a paradigm shift; they are changing from a place to shop to a place to go for “experiences”. Online is changing shopping habits and it is these changes that are driving shops from the High Street to the internet. Fortunately the demand for food and drink is supporting growth in the hospitality industry and this is filling the gaps left by retailers. Experts state that the pandemic has moved the shift to online forward 10 years and so businesses struggling to cover costs are closing. There are many that see the change as all negative but its worth looking at some of the positives the current transformation is bringing.
- Increase in independent businesses – Building owners are becoming more flexible on the rents they are demanding for Town Centre properties which means a growth in independents trading in the Town Centre.
- More High Street Living – Planning rules are being relaxed which is allowing for more flats above shops / bars / restaurants. This not only helps with the housing shortage but also brings guaranteed footfall to Town Centre businesses.
- More Sustainable Living – having lots of people living in Town Centres with good transport links reduces the need for a car as walking and public transport can be a healthier, greener and cheaper option.
- Footfall – the leisure, food businesses and residents deliver footfall to retail businesses helping to protect shops on the High Street.
- Community Spaces – the increase in residents and more places to socialise helps to create a Town Centre for the community. Worthing is so lucky to have a temperate climate, a thriving cafe culture and a wonderful location where the community can come together.
Its also worth addressing some of the points raised in the comments on social media
“We need more shops”
It would be lovely to have more shops but they have to be profitable and people need to use them ! if you want more shops on the High Street don’t buy online if you can buy it on the High Street . Its only people changing their habits back to physical shopping that can slow or reverse the trend. Do remember that there are still 238 shops in Worthing, they are not all on Montague Street so find time to explore you will find some amazing places .
“The Council should open new shops “
The Council does not decide what goes into a vacant premise it’s businesses that decide where to open as its their money being invested. Businesses need to cover costs, and make a profit, and so they carry out a lot of research before deciding where to open new stores or branches. What is the retail catchment?, what is the demographic of the town?, what is the competition? etc. They will then prioritise their expansion and invest where it will get the best return for shareholders.
Most of the property in Worthing is owned by investment companies and pension funds who are responsible to ensure their assets deliver for their customers; they will always choose the offer that brings the best return for investors. The Council responsibility is planning consents and permissions and they can use these powers to ensure development helps deliver their economic and local plans. Recent changes to planning policy, at national level, has reduced the amount Council can impact on what a premises is used for.
“There is nothing to come into town for these day.”
Worthing has 238 retailers, 178 places to eat and drink, 91 Health & Beauty businesses and 43 leisure businesses* The Town Centre is a stone’s throw away from a lovely beach and has a thriving cafe culture. The town has a fabulous events calendar, with many free to attend, and 3 Theatres, cinemas and a swimming pool so there is lots to come into town for !!! Support your local businesses the more support they get the more you protect and the better story Worthing has for potential investors.