Indie shop makers are what Chichester needs, Observer readers say

Serious Sandwich owner Deesha Chisnall (right) with colleagues Sue Brown (front) and Janet Ayres. Photo by Anna Khoo
Serious Sandwich owner Deesha Chisnall (right) with colleagues Sue Brown (front) and Janet Ayres. Photo by Anna Khoo

Independent retailers are top of readers’ wishlists for the city centre, an Observer poll revealed this week.

The survey comes as independent café owners spoke out about the potential impact of recently approved plans for a 150-seater restaurant in the Corn Exchange in Baffins Lane.

Owner of The Serious Sandwich, Deesha Chisnall said she was ‘quite worried’ about how her company, with a team of five staff, would fare with a Boston Tea Party restaurant just around the corner.

She said: “We’re just hoping that with the extra footfall, people will come in.

“Obviously, we’re a small cafe and they’re going to be a 150-seater so that’s going to have an impact on us.

“It’s going to have an impact on the other cafés, there’s four of us in a minute’s walk. It’s just ridiculous.”

Of 244 votes, 54 per cent of online Observer readers said they would favour independent shops over chains, with 14 per cent backing chains and 34 per cent said they did not mind.

Suggestions for discount chains such as Primark and Wilko were widespread but predominant wishes included independent food shops, such as butchers and fishmongers or greengrocers, and more for young people and children.

Reader Jayne Lake said she wanted really strong independents selling ‘funky furniture, collectables, unique trends, affordable fashion, ethnic and everyday art and local produce’.

She wrote: “The whole town needs to be looking to a much younger future otherwise it will lose any cultural, business or retail clout with its increasingly ageing and unconnected population.

“I love the idea of a mix of Brighton and Cheltenham merged with Borough Market.”

Some readers echoed the thoughts of Paul Warriner, who runs Crispin’s in East Street, in noting business rates and high prime space rents were one factor stopping smaller shops competing with larger chains.

Mr Warriner said: “It seems to be spiralling out of control. We used to be an independent [shop] town.”

According to figures from the Chichester BID, of city centre businesses last year, 18 per cent were eateries, pubs or hotels, just more than half of which were independents.

Chichester BID chairman Colin Hicks has said the boom in cafés is a ‘national phenomenon’ with the rise of internet retail as shoppers seek a customer experience they can’t get online.

Paula Bateman, who runs the Lunchbox Café in St John’s Street, said: “I think it’s a shame there are so many chains opening in Chichester, not just food, other shops as well.

“Independents at struggling to survive in Chichester.

“Really there are too many coffee shops and sandwich bars and Chichester, everywhere that opens seems to be an eatery.

“It doesn’t seem to make a difference how many there are, there doesn’t seem to be the support for the small businesses really.”

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