Should we be worried?
I found out this week that another shop in Leigh Broadway is due to close which will lead to another empty unit no doubt.
The announcement that the stationers in Elm Road is due to close was very sad as is the news that The Book Inn in Broadway West is closing down after many years trading and I have heard that the Halifax in the Broadway will be closing its branch in a couple of months.
This will mean that the nearest Halifax branch for those who need to visit will be in Southend which could be a bit of a trek and possibly involve paying for parking as well.
With these empty units it will be interesting to see what they become. It is no doubt that in the years that I have been here the shopping habits of Leigh inhabitants and out of town visitors have definitely changed.
Obviously with huge chains such as Staples it was difficult for the stationers to keep going especially when a lot of the things can easily be bought at the Factory Shop and with the influx of Kindle’s and tablets are people still buying psychical books? It may have been inevitable that The Book Inn would struggle.
But are there any type of retail shops that will prosper with these changing habits? And if they aren’t retained as retail shops will they inevitably end up as coffee shops, estate agents or hairdressers?
The only thing is that there still seems to be plenty of appetite for consumers to use these. The coffee shops near us are always full and even queuing out the door at weekends. It doesn’t seem feasible that what used to be the greengrocers opposite our office is currently being refurbished in to an art gallery and another coffee shop but I am sure they will have plenty of custom despite tough competition right on their doorstep.
There was quite rightly uproar when national chains such as Tesco’s & Costa started inhabiting empty premises but these shops are always packed with people using them. So maybe we should hope for large brands to take up these empty units to at least ensure that they will stay open, offer employment and keep them from changing hands more regularly.
I personally think if we want to retain the character and charm of our town then we need to make people aware what types of shops we want and then embrace them when we get them. Small individual boutique type shops were always our mainstay and I think that this is part of the huge appeal of Leigh Broadway.
New ideas such as The Refill Room should be applauded and utilised and people with these new ventures should be encouraged and promoted.
So we will all watch with interest as to what is proposed for these upcoming empty units and hope that large premises such as the Rectory Road post office get filled soon and ensure that people will use (and move to) our brilliant little town for many years to come.