Southwold: Shoppers urged to ‘vote with their feet’ when Costa Coffee opens next month

Guy Mitchell, chairman of the Southwold and District Chamber of Commerce, is urging people to vote

Guy Mitchell, chairman of the Southwold and District Chamber of Commerce, is urging people to vote with their feet when Costa Coffee opens in the town next month - Credit: Archant

PEOPLE have been urged to “vote with their feet” and support independent, locally-owned businesses when a national coffee chain opens in a popular seaside town next month.

Costa Coffee is now advertising for staff for its outlet in Southwold High Street and has confirmed it will open in “early February”.

The town council and more than 600 people objected to the company’s plans to take over the former Fanny & Frank clothes shop amid concerns it could harm the town’s “unique character”.

But despite the fierce opposition, its plans were given the go-ahead by Waveney District Council’s development control committee.

Although the campaign to prevent Costa Coffee opening failed, Guy Mitchell, chairman of Southwold Chamber of Trade, said people could still make their views count and called on customers to continue supporting local businesses when the new café opened.

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“We are encouraging people across the board to use independent businesses rather than chains,” he said. “Independent businesses give more back to the community, while by and large, chains only take from the community.”

Southwold mayor Michael Ladd added: “The success of the venture will be decided by people voting with their feet. We will have to wait and see what transpires in the next six months or so. Local people will make their own decision.”

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Stephen Bournes, the owner of Southwold Pier, echoed Mr Mitchell’s calls. “I would always encourage people to support independent businesses every time,” he said.

“National chains put everything into a formula and don’t give a flavour of who we are.”

Christine Webb, owner of the independent tea-room Tilly’s of Southwold, said she was angry Costa Coffee would benefit from the trade that local business owners had worked so hard to build up. However, she stressed there was no use in being negative.

“We have got to try to make sure we are bigger and better to be able to combat it,” she said.

“We are resigned to the fact Costa Coffee is opening now and our efforts are really going into streamlining our business and having something else to offer.”

A Costa spokesman said: “Our first step is to start looking to employ local people for the new jobs that will be created by the opening of this branch.

“We are keen to play our part in the local Southwold community, acting as a responsible and supportive corporate citizen and making a valuable contribution to Southwold life.

“Costa Coffee shops regularly complement independent retailers and serve to offer a wider range of choice and experience, which we believe will be the case in Southwold, where there are already independent and branded chains operating successfully in the area.”

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