Littlehampton’s high street to come back stronger after ‘very, very sad’ time

Littlehampton’s high street must prepare for a ‘very, very sad’ time but will come back stronger, according to the chairman of its traders’ partnership.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 4:05 pm

Celia Thomson-Hitchcock, who has owned beauty salon Ahead to Toe in East Street for 31 years, said the town was ideally placed to take advantage of changing trends brought on by the pandemic.

“I think we are going to go through an absolute lull and have a very, very sad high street for a while,” she said.

“But eventually it will fill with new, exciting and different products. I’ve realised during the pandemic that I don’t want to go to a large shopping centre, I want to go to individual shops that are light and bright.

“The lovely thing about Littlehampton is we have small shops and while that has usually been a disadvantage, I think this is now one of a time for small shops to really take advantage and grow.

“We have an opportunity and people are going to want to see something new and different. In five years’ time we will be looking at the high street and thinking ‘why didn’t I think of that?’.”

In last Wednesday’s budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a number of policies aimed at supporting businesses as we leave lockdown, including the extension of business rates holidays until the end of June. After that, businesses will be required to pay discounted business rates.

Non-essential shops reopening on April 12 are also eligible for up to £6,000 of grants to help them restart, while hospitality businesses forced to close for longer can claim up to £18,000.

Celia said traders would have liked to have longer-term business rate reform as they represented a ‘huge chunk of money’ to pay out, and more help with VAT would have been a huge boost.

The budget included a continuation of five per cent VAT rates for businesses until the end of September, increased to 12.5 per cent until April, 2022.

She also called on landlords to ‘wake up and smell the daisies’ and take responsibility for high rents.

But the opening up of support for newly self-employed people was a lifesaver. “Many self-employed people have been desperate and had ploughed so much money into their businesses and relying on council grants,” she said.

“Now they’re able to pay their rent and feed their kids.”

Alongside financial support, Celia said traders needed easier access to advice on taking the next step and growing their businesses.

The traders’ partnership is working on opening an advice shop in the town, a Business One Stop Shop (BOSS), where traders could seek support on how to evolve or navigate difficult times.

Other elements in the budget included an extension of the furlough scheme until September.

Corporation tax has also been increased to 25 per cent until 2023 for businesses making more than £250,000 of profit a year, reducing on a sliding scale depending on the amount of profit.