Campaign to save region's small shops

By Katy EdwardsAS hundreds of shops and small business struggle to stay open across East Anglia, a new poster campaign is being launched urging consumers to "use it or lose it".

By Katy Edwards

AS hundreds of shops and small business struggle to stay open across East Anglia, a new poster campaign is being launched urging consumers to "use it or lose it".

Thirty thousand local shops and small businesses closed in the UK between 1995 and 2000, representing one-fifth of all corner shops, grocers, high street banks, post offices and pubs – and it is estimated a further 28,000 outlets will have closed by 2005.

Now the Suffolk branch of the Federation of Small Businesses has joined forces with Suffolk County Council in an effort to prick consumers' consciences with a new poster campaign appealing to the public to support their local shops.

The venture, launched tomorrow has the support of the Ipswich and Suffolk Small Business Association (ISSBA) and the Women's Institute, along with a string of trade associations.

The first wave of posters feature bicycle repairman Bryan Potter, of Leisure Wheels, Nacton Road Ipswich, sub-postmaster Paul Marks, of Great Finborough post office, and 81-year-old Mary Williams, from Chelmondiston, a campaigner for local shops.

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Mr Potter, who appears on a poster entitled Service, has been hard hit by supermarket dominance in the cycle trade. He will close his shop on May 30, moving into engraving and fabric printing.

He said: "People are buying bicycles in a box from the big stores and putting them together at home. When it comes to a puncture repair or an inner tube, there will be none of us left to help. We can't survive on £3 inner tube repairs.

"All the convenient little shops are disappearing from the parades. Soon if you want a nail or a lick of paint, you will have to trek out of town."

Susan Marks, co-owner of the Great Finborough post office, whose husband Paul features on a second poster entitled Convenience, said: "During the snow I saw so many people come in for milk who never come in usually.

"People need to realise if they don't use us, they won't have the convenience of us on their doorsteps."

Mrs Williams appears on a poster entitled Company, promoting the importance of retaining the sociable aspect to village life.

She said: "I've lived here for 50 years. The village has lost its friendliness with everyone shopping in town. I don't want to end up with empty streets where no one knows anybody."

John Bamford, vice-chairman of ISSBA, said: "We hope the posters will make an impact and that people will take the message to heart."

The formal launch of the Use It Or Lose It campaign will take place at County Hall in Ipswich tomorrow night.

n A post office manager has vowed to carry on running his village shop despite being the victim of an armed robbery.

Graham Westley, 38, was threatened by a robber brandishing a weapon concealed in a carrier bag when he struck at the Hacheston village stores and post office on Friday afternoon.

The robber fled with cash, but Mr Westley said his terrifying ordeal had not put him off reopening the shop.

"It was not until afterwards that I was really frightened. When he left, I rushed outside, but there was no-one there, so I ran back in and dialled 999 – that is when I really started shaking. But this has not deterred me from providing a community service," he added.

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