The manager of one of the city centre’s success stories says times are tough but businesses can still thrive if they know their market and get the support they need.
Emma Shepherd of Creations Hair and Beauty said: “When we opened there were 30 salons in and around Chichester and 20 years on there’s 30 salons but lots are different.
“Around half have gone and been replaced with new businesses.
“For me it’s the supermarket effect. You have the likes of Waitrose and M&S at the top end, then the Lidl and Aldi at the other end and everyone in between are struggling.
“We try to offer a luxury service and if people are spending a decent amount of money they rightly expect something unique.
“We invest about £10,000 each year in educating our team because for us, service is the most important thing.
“People love feeling special and they come to us for that personal touch.”
Emma said of the three salons located in Southgate, the men’s barbers was seeing the biggest growth but added that like everybody, turning a profit is increasingly tough.
She said: “Profit margins are being squeezed year on year on year. General costs are going up along with rents and rates, corporation tax, utility bills, the increase in the national minimum wage, and it looks like business pension contributions are also going to increase.
“We are lucky to have a really good landlord, but there are big London landlords coming in to take over properties who want the high rent the big restaurant chains will pay.
“That is pushing rents up so the whole city is being inflated.”
She said the number of loyal customers at Creations remains high, but the frequency of visits had dropped from between six to eight weeks to on average three times a year as everyone tightens their belts.
Emma expressed sadness at the number of independent shops which have closed over recent years.
Last week Mothercare in East Street confirmed it will close along with several other big names
Emma said: “Going back 20 years, Chichester is now a very different place.
“People used to come to town because of the boutiques and independent shopping but I think that’s dwindling, Chichester is becoming like any high street and it’s very sad.
Emma heaped praise on the ‘fantastic’ Drappers Yard in the Hornet for its collection of small, creative sellers, and said landlords should offer the chance of pop up shops to give start-up businesses more of a chance.
She also wants more events put on in the high street to attract a varied audience.
Emma pointed to the success of cocktail bar The Rocking Horse as a sign that businesses can thrive, adding: “There are definitely still opportunities to do well but we need as much support as we can from the council and Chichester BID.”
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