QUIRKY homeware stores and niche outlets would breathe new life into our towns say readers, as its revealed one in six believe improving shops is a top priority.

South Essex shoppers say widening the variety of our stores should be a focus as we come out of lockdown and take one step closer towards normality.

Niche outlets, independent businesses and quirky homeware stores were top of the list when it came to asking Echo readers what they’d like to see.

It comes after a survey - carried out by the think tank Demos - revealed around one in six people believe improving local shops is the most urgent issue in Southend West.

The feeling was also backed by almost a fifth of people in Rayleigh and Wickford as well as Rochford and Southend East.

John Budge, from Thorpe Bay, would welcome more shops like the Range and Woolworths alongside unusual smaller stores.

The 78-year-old said: “We usually go down to Leigh where there’s loads of quirky shops which it would be nicer to see more of.

“We get bits like ornaments and presents for family where it’s much more personal than bits you’d find at bigger stores, so that would be great.

“That being said, I am sad to see Debenhams go.

“There was so much to offer there.”

Read more:

40 students to make a stand in protest against 'sexist' skirt ban at school

LIVE: Updates from across the county as lockdown restrictions are eased

James Duddridge, MP for Rochford and Southend East, is pushing residents to get behind their local stores - and says they are the “backbone of the town’s economy”.

Susan Salmons, 73, from Leigh, would like to see more options available for youngsters, including clothes stores.

She said: “Whatever would bring a bit more life and interest back into our high streets is needed, which I think could include a mixture of smaller businesses.”

Sir David Amess, MP for Southend West, added: “People are looking for something different from their local shops in terms of both products and service that they cannot find online.

“Local entrepreneurs should be encouraged to take up empty shops.”