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Confidence returns to the High Street
SHOPPERS and traders are being offered a glimmer of hope as Southend town centre starts to pull itself from the depths of recession.
Last year it was a picture of gloom with empty shops scarring the High Street and surrounding roads as traders started to admit defeat.
However, the future of the town centre is starting to look up after the announcement retail giant H&M would expand their presence in the town by moving into the former TJ Hughes store.
The number of vacant premises, a key indicator of a town’s economic well-being, compares favourably with some other big towns in Essex.
Confidence is starting to build in the town as more retailers start to trickle in.
Ohsoboho has taken over the former Past Times shop, Quiz Clothing is now in the former First Choice store next to the railway bridge, while Mallard Jewellers and Robins Pie and Mash have also opened.
Deputy council leader John Lamb , responsible for regeneration and enterprise, said he believed the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics had contributed to shoppers’ confidence in High Street shopping.
He said: “The High Street has held up extremely well. We have lost some shops along the way, but we have gained others and there has been more investment in the town.
“This shows the confidence retailers have in the high street which, in turn, is doing much better –it is a really positive knock-on effect.
“The Jubilee and the Olympics have given us the feelgood factor and really given shoppers a boost.”
Also credited for improving the High Street is the Town Centre Partnership, an action group funded by major traders.
The partnership hopes to bring in a business improvement district to the High Street, which would use the extra 1.5 per cent business rates every firm would need to pay on improvements to the town centre.
Partnrship chairman Dawn Jeakings, said: “Things are moving forward.
“It is a much better picture than it used to be.
“The empty shop units are filling up and there is a more positive vibe, which is great in the run-up to Christmas.’’