STRUGGLING traders in Hunstanton have had a ‘heartbreaking year’ and are urging West Norfolk Council to help the town saying ‘we’ve never known it as bad as this’. In Friday’s Lynn News, town centre manager Alistair Cox said Hunstanton had a loyal customer base and was performing above the national average for empty shops.
However, Kevan Fleming, owner of Legge’s in the town, said: “He’s painting quite a nice picture of it all but Hunstanton is experiencing extreme difficulty with a lack of footfall.”
Mr Fleming said problems stemmed from when Woolworths left the town three years ago. He described the store as ‘the heartbeat to Hunstanton’ and said when it closed it was ‘the biggest nail in the coffin’ for the town.
Mr Fleming, who has been in business in the town for 36 years, urged the council to plough some of the revenue it receives from Hunstanton back into the town.
He said: “The borough council gets a tremendous amount of money in car parking fees alone and we do not see any percentage come back to the same degree.”
Debbie Ward and Dawn Davies, directors of Jacksons shoe shop which has been in the town since 1984, echoed Mr Fleming’s views.
They said: “In 73 years of trading we have never known it so bad, we have survived many recessions but none as bad as this.
“We are one of the many businesses in Hunstanton that are fighting for survival.
“After three years of fighting we have had a heartbreaking year, we have had to lay off all of our staff, one had been with us 27 years. We have had to change our product line to try and increase our footfall. Whether it is enough remains to be seen.”
The businesswomen feel the town’s low rate of empty shops is unrealistic, as when shops become empty they are taken over by charity shops which pay reduced rates.
The traders urged Mr Cox to spend more time in Hunstanton, going around shops and talking to traders.
Mr Fleming said: “West Norfolk Council treats Hunstanton as the jewel in their crown for the summer months, but they seem to turn away in the winter and not look back until March or April.”
A spokesman for West Norfolk Council said: “We absolutely understand that retailers are facing enormous challenges at the moment and that is why we are organising three roadshows next year to engage with business and to work together to find ways to help keep our towns trading.”