Littlehampton’s town centre is ‘on the up’ according to high street traders following a successful Christmas period.
The festive season often acts as a battleground between traditional, independent retailers and the convenience and choice offered by online shopping.
Staci Mendoza-Quinn, who has owned the artisan store and gallery Way Out There and Back in Arcade Road for 27 years, said while high street stores are at the mercy of the weather, they must offer a greater all-round experience to combat the threat of online megastores..
“By centering our business around community events like art get-togethers and workshops, we are giving someone an experience, which is perhaps the only way retail can survive now,” she said.
“We are very specialist and the thing we noticed is if you get a really wet December, like this year, people stay indoors or go out of town.”
The number of independent stores in Littlehampton was promising, she said, and she predicted a bright future for the town. She said: “I visit a lot of coastal towns and they all suffer with the same problem – everyone wants to come here and holiday.
“I think Littlehampton is really on the edge of breaking into a very bohemian, artistic environment. The shops that are surviving are really exciting. There’s nowhere else like it. If it gets the right balance of that seaside, coastal feel plus the quirky, arty aspect then it has a great deal going for it.
“I think Littlehampton is at that point where if you don’t get on the ladder now, you are going to miss out. It is on the up.”
Staci’s sentiments were echoed by Jan Gordon, who has owned Crafters’ Corner in Clifton Road for six years.
She said her store had a ‘really good’ Christmas, which she attributed to people being ‘fed up of buying in bulk from the big stores’.
The sense of community fostered by the independent retailers was Littlehampton’s greatest strength, she said.
“I think we’ve got a lovely little high street,” she said.
“We don’t have the big department stores – I’m not saying Littlehampton doesn’t need a few big shops but that’s how the high streets are going, lots of little shops.
“We support each other. If I haven’t got something in we send people to other shops. We work together – we’ve got a great community."
Many traders band together for the Artisan Market, which is run from April to December every year by Staci and Arun District Council.
Jan said it was also heartening to see the community get behind local shops during the Littlehampton Bonfire and Christmas lights switch on.
A number of Littlehampton traders joined together to form the Littlehampton Traders’ Partnership, which provide two hours’ free parking in the town centre.
Bah-Humbug Sweets in Anchor Springs is a member, and owner Paul Wakeman said the free parking makes the town a destination.
“I like to think having a sweet shop like mine is a way to bring people into town,” he said. “We get customers from all over the place and they know they can get some sweets, get their two hours free parking and go and have something to eat in town.”