Independent shops must rally together, says Bath trader Maureen Lechmere
A Bath trader is calling on other independent shops to rally round in an attempt to raise their profile against larger chains.
Maureen Lechmere has owned and run the Fudge Factory in Church Street for 19 years, where the business has enjoyed the flow of tourists visiting the nearby abbey.
However, Mrs Lechmere has said independent traders need to galvanise their resources to protect their businesses, which she claims are under threat from the growing number of national chains dominating Bath city centre.
She said since the opening of the SouthGate centre and the expansion of Waitrose in the Podium, the number of independent traders has plummeted.
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“The big thing I want to get across is just making customers aware that we are independent. I’ve been here 19 years and this has been the hardest year.
“Bath has changed so much in the past 19 years. A lot of independents have gone to the wall.”
Mrs Lechmere has blamed the tough trading conditions on a number of factors including a drop in the number of tourists visiting the city, people having less disposable income and an increase in her overheads.
But the businesswoman has said she does not mind competition and just wants to make customers aware of the importance of supporting independents.
“It’s about making people aware and allowing them to make a conscious decision when they shop.
“If people don’t use us they will lose us,” she said.
To help identify independent retailers to shoppers Mrs Lechmere wants other shops like hers to put a small sign in their window highlighting the fact they are not a franchise.
The idea has received the support from Martin Tracy at the Framing Workshop in Walcot Street, who is working with a local designer to create a sign that would be suitable for all shops to use.
He said: “I am very supportive of the idea. We have over the years done small things and we had the Campaign for Small Shops.
“There are concerns among traders and it would be beneficial to work together.”