MAJOR brands such as Laura Ashley, Kath Kidson, Paperchase, Carluccio’s restaurant, Pret a Manger and Travelodge should be targeted to breathe new life into Evesham’s town centre.
That was the finding of a retail review led by Shawn Riley, Evesham Market Town manager, who presented his report to members of Evesham Town Council on Monday (March 9).
Together with the Local Data Company, Mr Riley investigated the current offering in the town and the particular businesses needed to bring shoppers flooding back into Evesham.
And following an extensive review which saw the retail chief visit comparable towns such as Tunbridge Wells, Chichester and Leamington Spa, a hit list of wanted businesses has been compiled.
Although the current shop vacancy rate in Evesham is 16.2 per cent – above the 15 per cent West Midlands average – there were reasons to be cheerful according to Mr Riley.
Independent shops make up 73 per cent of the town’s business, above the UK average of 60 per cent and Mr Riley told councillors shop vacancy rates were lower in towns which boasted a Waitrose.
The finding could be a welcome boost for Evesham with the supermarket giant confirming it would open its doors in the town by 2017.
Among the areas of concern was the Riverside Shopping Centre which accounts for 31 per cent of all of Evesham’s retail units.
Mr Riley told members if the Riverside Shopping Centre was removed from the Local Data Company’s findings, the percentage of Evesham’s empty shops dropped to 14.7 per cent.
“We have to look at what we can do.” he said.
“We have a strong retail offering and that is something we should build on.”
Coun Gerry O’Donnell backed his claims and added: “We have a fantastic heritage but we don’t exploit it enough in my opinion.”
Deputy Mayor, Coun Fred Kaler questioned whether a real comparison could be made between Evesham and areas such as Tunbridge Wells.
In response, Mr Riley said: “I’d rather people say to me we would like to be like them than say ‘oh we don’t want to be like that town’.”
As well as the desired retailers, a clear need for a vastly improved range of leisure offering was also identified by the report.
The findings will now be used by Mr Riley in presentations to retailers and businesses to encourage them to explore
opportunities in Evesham.
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