The leader of Chichester District Council has responded to House of Fraser announcing it will close its store in the city.
Tony Dignum said: “We really value Chichester city centre and understand that its continued success depends on having a good mixture of shops and other facilities for a wide range of people, and as a council, we want to do what we can to help achieve this.
“At the moment, the retail industry is under a spotlight nationally and is undergoing huge changes, the extent of which has not been seen since the impact of the growth of supermarkets during the 1970s and 1980s.
“One measure of this impact is the retail vacancy rate. Nationally, this figure is 11.2 per cent, having risen at the end of 2017 for the first time for 6 years.
“Compared to this national trend, Chichester’s vacancy rate of 7.8 per cent is much healthier. Chichester has been identified as one of the top five most resilient high streets in the UK (4th place) according to Cushman and Wakefield’s new research report ‘UK High Streets: Dead or Alive?’
“Generally, there is always a turnover of units, but these fill relatively quickly in Chichester. We have recently seen new businesses coming in to the city, and are aware of more to come which is positive news.
“Trends in retail are changing all the time, and there are still many opportunities for those who can offer the consumer an excellent choice and experience.
“Independent shops are an essential component of the city’s retail offer. To support our independent high street retailers we are currently running a retail mentoring programme specifically for these shops. This is backed up with a shop front grant scheme available to those who have taken part.
“We also have an Enabling Grants scheme open to all small businesses which can be used to help fund growth projects. Alongside both these schemes, our business support officers are available to help businesses and discuss their individual needs.”
To ensure that Chichester remains resilient in the future, Chichester District Council has been leading the Chichester Vision. The Vision was developed last year and is now in its delivery phase. The Vision is supported by all three local authorities in the city and the Chichester BID (Business Improvement District). Work is already underway to improve the look and feel of the city so that it continues to be attractive to both visitors and businesses.
“As a council we are keen to invest in projects which will help boost the local economy. Our latest project is our £6 million Enterprise Centre in Terminus Road. It offers 82 small offices and workshops and is already filling up fast with small and start-up businesses. Further east on Terminus Road our new industrial units proceeding rapidly towards completion in the late autumn Our largest development project is the 30-acre Southern Gateway which will provide more retail opportunities for the city including at the canal waterfront.”