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Tale of "two" towns with some Stafford town centre shops going out of business as new ones rush to open

By Staffordshire Newsletter  |  Posted: July 24, 2014

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A DISILLUSIONED trader is shutting up shop after more than 20 years in the town as he says dwindling trade and lack of support have helped put him out of business.

Tom Till, who runs Misters in Salter Street, says footfall is so light he has struggled to make money in the last two years.

And he says the multi-million pound Riverside development, set to include Marks & Spencer and Primark, sealed his decision to move out.

It comes in the wake of Truview electrical store in Mill Street, shutting down after 30 years.

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And Knits and Needle, next to Misters, is also set to close later this year. The store's proprietor was too upset to speak about the situation when contacted by the Newsletter this week.

Mr Till said: "I opened in 1989 and the town was very buoyant then but has gradually gone down the pan.

"I think more could be done to attract people in. A proper outdoor market should be held every Saturday. Parking is an issue.

"People pay up front for a set amount of time, which means they often have to rush back to their cars.

"On one bank holiday weekend two or three years ago Kingsmead car park closed for resurfacing on Saturday and Sunday. There seemed to be no thought as to how it would affect business.

"With the new development at Riverside I can't see a future for us anymore. I feel desperately sad about it.

"For the last two years I've been coming here for the love of it rather than money."

Despite the bad news it is a tale of two towns as some business bosses are rushing to open new stores.

Victoria Elsmore, 28, of Croydon Drive, Penkridge, opened Mini Moo's in Mill Street recently, and said: "Depsite some businesses closing down I think there is much potential for smaller boutique-style shops. If Stafford can go in the direction of Lichfield it has every chance of being successful.

"Things are going well for us so far and there has been a lot of support from the other traders."

And Mike Gilmore, 68, who lives in Trinity Fields, has this week launched Social Vaping in Mill Street, a lounge where people can buy e-cigarettes.

"We opened at Stafford Market to begin with," he said. "We have very good customers and felt we wanted to invest in our business. Stafford is a good town, with good people."

Chris Lewis, 46, chairman of Stafford Town Centre Partnership and owner of the Swan and Bear Grill, said: "Shops do come and go. But the occupancy rate in Stafford is 91 per cent, above the national average of 86 per cent.

"Stafford and the town centre partnership try to make it a vibrant centre. There are events and festivals such as the arts festival, which make the town boom.

"Salter Street is a lovely little street off the high street.

"Riverside will bring more people in but shoppers do like the more individual stores and there is a place for that here."

The news comes as a masterplan for the northern end of town is set to be developed to cope with the impact of the Riverside development amid fears it will be neglected by shoppers rushing to use the new shopping centre.

Urban designers Urbed and property consultants DTZ have been working to create a development guide for the north end of town. There will be an exhibition in Market Square on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

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