Hadleigh: Fresh bid to halt trading decline

Hadleigh Eight bells 24/3/13 in the snow

Hadleigh Eight bells 24/3/13 in the snow - Credit: citizenside.com

BUSINESS owners have formed a town team in a bid to tackle a sharp drop in high street trade since a new supermarket opened.

In January, Hadleigh Chamber of Commerce called a crunch meeting attended by more than 50 business-owners on how trade could be improved.

The move came after some claimed they had experienced a 50% drop in customers following the opening of a new Morrisons store in Calais Street.

However, a spokesman for the supermarket chain told the EADT it would be “highly unusual” for the opening of a single shop to cause such a downturn.

Around 30 high-street traders returned for a follow-up meeting last week, and 12 volunteers put themselves forward to create a town team.

The business community in Sudbury has already benefited from the formation of a similar organisation - an idea that is supported by retail guru Mary Portas to revive ailing high streets.

Heading up the team will be shop owners Gary Install of Ferguson’s Deli and Jane Haylock of the Idler Bookshop.

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She said: “We were really pleased that so many people returned for the second meeting and that we have managed to get so many volunteers who are willing to help and have some input into attracting people to our town.

“Our main brief will be to look at ways of encouraging people back to the High Street and we will come up with a list of short-term aims that can be achieved quite easily.

“One of the major concerns is business rates, which have a devastating effect on small shops. We will look at things like this under longer-term aims.”

Ideas put forward so far include organising regular ‘sale days’ in the summer and in the lead-up to Christmas, where all traders simultaneously have special offers.

Another suggestion is to organise treasure hunts, where people look for clues in shop windows.

A loyalty scheme started by the chamber in December is also being hailed as a success. Customers can get their specially designed card stamped 10 times to entitle them to enter a monthly draw for a £50 cash prize.

There are now 24 Hadleigh traders signed up for the scheme.

Hadleigh Town Council and the Market Feoffment Charity – which has held the Town Hall and Guildhall Complex in trust since 1438 – are also working together to find ways to promote the ancient buildings.

The charity’s chair, Penny Cook, said: “We are looking at running an open day so people can see what’s available in the building in terms of rooms for hire.

“It costs money to run and we need to find new sources of revenue, but we also realise that, the more we can hire the complex out for new events, the more it will attract more people to the town and have a knock-on effect for trade.

“We would like to build on the success of the craft fairs we run there, which raise money for the town’s Christmas lights event.

“We are also looking at introducing QR codes (for smartphones and similar devices) giving information about the buildings’ history.”