Today, we are calling on you to help us spread a little love in our high streets.
Our traditional local shopping centres are changing.
Many small retailers face rising business rates and rents, while high parking charges, poor infrastructure and the loss of vital banking services have added to their woes.
At the same time a number of well-known chains and department stores have closed swathes of high street stores, with more than 50,000 retail jobs going or gone from big stores this year alone.
The local retail scene is undergoing significant changes and none of us can ignore the effects.
Small shops are in the thick of this.
There are twice as many independent high street businesses as chain stores.
They are vital to the health of our town centres.
And while there are thousands of small businesses still literally setting up shop – on our high streets and online – across the UK, many others are finding it difficult, some too difficult, to stay in business.
There is no quick fix -–and longer term we need to re-imagine and repurpose our local shopping areas so they can be less than about just shopping and more a place for leisure and experience and community.
But today your Chad – along with our sister newspapers across Johnston Press – launch our Love Your High Street campaign with the aim of focusing more attention on what can be done now to support our small shops and businesses. And we can all play a part.
Everyone enjoys the convenience of using the internet to meet their shopping needs.
However, as consumer spend starts rising in the run up to Christmas, we are encouraging all readers to make a conscious decision to also shop locally and spend some time and money with the shops, small businesses and independent traders who ensure our communities remain vibrant places to live.#
Between now and the end of the year, we will be helping to spread the word by supporting the local initiatives and great independent retailers we have on our patches in a series of regular features.
But more fundamental change is needed – so Love Your High Streets is also about calling for more direct action.
We are backing the Federation of Small Businesses in its calls for both central and local government to lessen the pressure on small firms struggling to keep their heads above water.
Drive home the message to the Treasury and our local MPs that our outdated business rates need urgent reform to lessen the burden on independent traders;
Call for positive action on car parking charges and spaces to encourage people to visit our high streets;
Pressure the Government to review what access high street businesses and shoppers have to cash and digital payments in the face of dwindling bank branches and ATMs.
Backing the launch of our Love Your High Street initiative, Mike Cherry, FSB national chairman, said: “It’s great to see this campaign adding to the call for action to help our high streets.
“With confidence among small retailers falling, this is a crucial time to ramp up pressure for urgent reform of outdated business rates and simplifying the way bills can be appealed, as well as improving local roads and increasing the amount of free parking.
“Government and local authorities must come together now to find real solutions to these issues.”
In 2013, the then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles unveiled a “billion pound package” of measures to support our local shops.
It was claimed these steps – which included business rates support, town centre tax breaks, relaxation of planning rules and parking reform - would make it easier for all the shops on Britain’s high streets to grow, expand and take people on.
Five years on , life on the high streets are still tough.
Michael Weedon, the FSB’s retail & high street policy unit chairman, said: “Small business owners are resilient and are always having to adapt.
“But we want to see the Government and local authorities come together to look at real solutions to these issues so our high streets are not only able to survive but to thrive.
“We all know the problems. Shops lie empty, increasingly expensive parking in towns drives shoppers to choose retail parks, business rate bills weigh disproportionately heavily on high street retailers while online-only operators have far lower costs – and pay far less in tax. Then there’s time-honoured necessities such as high street banks and convenient ATMs closing down and competition from online shopping.
“If we don’t act then we know that these problems will get worse.
Councillor Dave Saunders, council portfolio holder for regeneration and growth, said: “The council fully supports the Chad campaign to encourage people to use the town centre to do their Christmas shopping.
“It mirrors the council’s own existing strategy to boost the local economy and businesses by inspiring people to shop in Mansfield, which has a fantastic array of mainstream chain stores as well as independent traders, including the market.
“This strategy is part of the council’s wider long-term mission to raise the profile of Mansfield as somewhere good to visit, invest in and live.
“We are pursuing this vision in the town centre in a variety of ways.
“These include offering parking deals to increase the number of shoppers and entice them to stay for longer.
“We are also bringing events, such as the Big Switch On, and specialist markets, and working with Mansfield Business Improvement District to support initiatives to increase the retail variety in Mansfield.
“In addition, for the first time this year, the council is funding an ice rink, which we hope will boost the number of town centre visitors.”
Rebekah O’Neill, manager of the Mansfield town centre shopping centre, said the shopping centre’s ‘Christmas has arrived’ campaign continues to be a huge hit with shoppers, attracting hundreds of visitors.
She said: “We are really looking forward to another successful Christmas.
“We offer so many exciting and engaging free events that cater for everyone and will make people’s shopping trips even more fantastic.
“The town’s Christmas light switch on event kicks off our festive fun on November 18.
“Father Christmas and his grotto will be taking centre stage once again at Four Seasons alongside a host of special guests.
“Our late-night Christmas shopping always proves a massive draw and includes free parking from 5pm.
“This year also sees the arrival of our very own Mansfield ice-skating rink in the market place and will be a wonderfully wintery addition to the town’s seasonal celebrations.
“From a retail perspective, we already have a range of stores stocking up on some amazing Christmas products.
“And, of course, this year we have the addition of The Pud Store, which is popular with shoppers since it launched last month.
“JD Sports is also about to move into much larger premises.”
Mansfield’s MP highlighted the importance of using our town centre, which has plenty of potential.
Mr Bradley said: “Mansfield has a beautiful town centre and it has so much potential.
“There needs to be cheap, accessible parking, and using the town centre should be a safe and comfortable experience.
“I think coming to Mansfield could become more of an experience with museums, places to have lunch, and just offer something a bit different.”
“I’ve made it clear business rates are not suitable for the 21st Century, and we need to start with a plan of how we want the town centre to be.
“We have a great town centre, Mansfield is a great place to come and shop, we need to offer something different and attract tourism.
“It’s a huge challenge to encourage people to ‘use it or lose it’ when it comes to the High Street.”
Nikki Rolls, BID chief executive, said: “As the largest town in Nottinghamshire, we have an excellent transport network.
“The trains are regular and the buses bring people into a fantastic, award-winning bus station.
“A short walk and you can see the range of independent shops we have.
“Shops like Jak & Daisy, Sally Twinkles, Collections, Quality Shoe Repairs, Mansfield Computer Store, Xibit Jewellery, EQVVS, Ground Zero Comics, The Pud Store, and Beau-ti-ful all show what a varied offer we have right here in Mansfield.
“Don’t forget, we also have the national chains such as Debenhams, and Beales offering a range of high end lines as well as High Street favourites such as Marks & Spencer, Dorothy Perkins, New Look, Quiz and Primark to name just a few.
“There is a lot of variety in Mansfield town centre, which also has a number of cafes and coffee shops – making it an ideal place to be.”