Rhys Owen, Leasing Director, Orbit Developments, shares his thoughts on why Stockport should support the independent stores.
As part of my role as an ambassador for business in Stockport, I have gone out of my way to research the various initiatives and grants available to incentivise companies to relocate into the town centre.
It appears that a large proportion of the grants are aimed at attracting new, independent retailers into the area.
These types of retailers bring variety to a town centre. Visitors get bored of seeing ‘carbon copy’ shopping centres with the same line up of chain stores and products on offer. Instead, their time can be spent discovering unique parts of the town with character such as the market place.
After visiting a successful independent Stockport retailer recently, I was frustrated to hear about their struggle when trying to open their first store in the town centre.
I was under the impression guidance and assistance was available to all retailers with a sensible business plan, yet this store had experienced multiple barriers put in their way throughout their journey.
They were initially told the money in the ‘pot’ for start-ups had run out, next they were informed that they didn’t qualify for another grant, in spite of seeming to tick all the relevant boxes.
After a quick period of success, they were then invited to meet senior representatives at the council to discuss how the process could have been made easier and what other funding was available for their growing business. But they haven’t heard anything since, leaving them feeling very deflated and frustrated.
What kind of message does this give to new start-ups willing to give Stockport a chance? What quality businesses are we missing out on because they faced one too many barriers?
If we want to compete with the thriving towns like Altrincham and really push our unique shopping offer, we need to review the process for new retailers joining the town centre and make their journey an easy one.