TRADERS in Arundel have welcomed the Littlehampton Gazette/Worthing Herald Shop Local, Eat Local, Play Local campaign, launched last month to support businesses across our area.
The historic town was bustling with visitors over the sunny weekend, but being a tourist destination poses as many challenges for shops, cafés and restaurants as it brings benefits.
That’s the view of Jonathan Brantigan, co-owner of upmarket food shop Pallant of Arundel, in High Street, and former deputy chairman of Arundel Chamber of Commerce.
And the weekend just gone was a perfect example of how the weather can literally be a barometer for local businesses. A quick check on the numbers going through his own shop revealed a similar head count to last year, a much gloomier March weekend, and yet spending was noticeably up, perhaps thanks to the sunshine and blue sky putting people in a good mood to spend their hard-earned cash.
“It’s very weather-dependent,” said Jonathan. “Visitors just don’t come here if the weather is bad, so we rely on a loyal customer base of local people, and I’m pleased to say we have that.
“We aim to build up a relationship with our customers, and to get to know them by name, which makes it all the more enjoyable for us and for them.”
That personal touch offered by smaller, independent traders in towns like Arundel is something the big supermarkets find hard to match, and yet a string of new/rebranded stores, including Waitrose branches in Storrington and Littlehampton, Morrisons at Wick, Asda at Ferring and the huge, rebuilt Sainsbury’s at Rustington remain a threat, especially those on out-of-town sites with acres of free parking.
Asked if councils/the Government could be doing more to help traders in places like Arundel, Jonathan said: “The big bugbear for me is always parking. In Arundel, the parking bays in the town centre are for just one hour stays, but it’s not long enough for someone who wants to do some shopping and then maybe have a coffee somewhere afterwards. It would help if that one hour could be extended to two.
“Compare that to the out-of-town supermarkets with their free parking, and it’s just not a level playing field.”
But if the business community in Arundel does have another strength, it is the resilience of the community of traders themselves. The town centre has been affected by a series of problems in recent years, including roadworks and even closures for gas works and junction improvements and even a one-day switch-off of electricity.
Each time, though, traders have united to lobby the authorities and make their points known.
Not every town has that same fighting approach. And it is a stance which deserves every support from customers old and new.