Stowmarket traders' concerns
TRADERS have voiced concerns business in their town centre could be suffering because of an increasing number of charity shops.There are currently seven charity shops in Stowmarket, with a further two organisations looking for premises in the town.
TRADERS have voiced concerns business in their town centre could be suffering because of an increasing number of charity shops.
There are currently seven charity shops in Stowmarket, with a further two organisations looking for premises in the town.
But members of the Stowmarket Chamber of Commerce claimed the number of charity shops was harming the town centre's ability to thrive.
Len Oxley, a committee member of the chamber of commerce, said charity shops did not pay business rates and were staffed mainly by volunteers.
"When it comes to business, there is nothing politically correct about unfair trade," he added.
"Stowmarket Chamber of Commerce wants to see a level playing field for all its members. It's time for political correctness to be reviewed and for our business community to start receiving some political fairness."
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Mr Oxley said of 100 retailers in Stowmarket, there were about 10 banks and building societies, nine estate agents and seven charity shops, with a further two looking for premises.
"With nine charity shops, that accounts for almost 30 per cent of our retail shop offering. Is it any wonder that Stowmarket's retailing is at present looking very poor, especially when looked at against other comparable centres such as Sudbury?" he added.
"A balance of variety and choice is the key if we are going to tempt shoppers to pull in to Stowmarket's car parks rather than continue on the road to Bury, Ipswich or Sudbury. Stowmarket has to be competitive to thrive and survive."
Richard Wallis, chairman of the Stowmarket Chamber of Commerce, said he felt the town was being overrun by charity shops.
But Lois Peart, temporary manager at the Cancer Research UK shop in the town, said: "There are a lot of building societies, nine estate agents too.
"We get fantastic support and I feel it is better to have a town full of charity shops than full of empty shops."
Beverley Driver, manager at the St Elizabeth Hospice shop in Stowmarket, also felt the criticism was unfair.
"We are a local charity and the money stays locally. People come in to town and support the charity shops and do their shopping too. A charity shop is better than an empty shop and we are very well supported," she said.
Shoppers visiting Stowmarket town centre said they would like to see more choice of stores.
John and Sylvia Payne, from Haughley, near Stowmarket, said they would like to see a greater variety of traders, while Ann Lang, from Stowupland, said there were too many banks, building societies and estate agents.
Kim Phillips, from Stowmarket, said: "There is no real choice, old shops that have been here for ages. I know we are a small town, but we could do with some more high street stores."
Anita Somerville, from Stowmarket, said there were a lot of charity shops, but felt that, with empty shops in the town centre, they could not be entirely blamed for taking spaces away from other businesses.