Date: March 2020
I wanted to write an article with a view of explaining why I appreciate being part of the Southend community, both in terms of specialist retail and as a resident. Many years of living within easy reach of London, the beach and open countryside have been a joy.
We are lucky to have these amazing individual geographical advantages to reside. After travelling to Epping for my business for 14 years, I decided to bring the retail experience to Southend. At first, I was hesitant of the marketplace, for contemporary solutions that I have been selling for years, to another marketplace. I have been incredibly surprised by the talent, skills and expertise of our local community.
There are many younger determined businesspeople building exciting businesses in our area and continue to harness the knowledge and wisdom of the older business generation. As retail is forever changing which has its own challenges, I have been humbled by the sheer determination our local entrepreneurs to succeed and develop.
In my view, our Council needs to connect more with the business community with a true consultative approach, to bring back much of which is evidently missing in our town.
Imagine flying in from an amazing city like Amsterdam to reach the Kursaal, an amazing building with much history, languishing unloved on the seafront. We have so much potential to develop into a cultural hub which could bring our tourism into another dimension. Just the other day, I really took notice of how many tourists I could spot, who were either day trippers or over for the weekend from abroad, far more than I first thought. From that my focus changed to where are they going, what is available for them and why?
Obviously, the seafront is an absolute destination, our amusements are an institution, Adventure Island and the various cafes and eating establishments are different to other parts of Essex.
We should consider making the seafront area more like a cool artisan area for food and retail for craft people, galleries etc. this would add to our already brilliant offering to residents and travellers. We do not need a High Street with empty shops, vagabonds or the unsavoury.
Making the High Street a road again will bring a different shape to trading, possibly allow the retailers who have left to consider a return.
I know there are plans afoot to change the desperate situation in our High Street, this is welcomed with open arms and is long overdue!
Parking also affects our businesses, free parking in the town would be a real lift to shoppers and visitors. Saving a few pounds on the car park charges will actually go a long way to revitalise the High Street, the Council will obviously have to fill a funding gap though.
The more visitors we have, the likelihood of retail and local business will soon look to take over the vacant shops, revenue will then be directly paid to the council through rates and tariffs. Reducing the rates will undoubtedly create the same scenario, more shops of interest, more community-based business schemes, vibrant enterprise will flourish if the changes are made to establish a change in a drab High Street.
The markets in the High Street can only get better, has anyone from the Council travelled up to Spitalfields in London to see how a market with specialist retail and street food is achieved? Maybe not on the same scale.
Southend is currently the 63rd best place to live in the country, I think we can slide up the rankings...
I know I would love a marina and we should use more of the pier, we have so much to potentially offer, I’m sure we will and hope we achieve this.
My point is we need to work together for our town, businesspeople, Councillors, charity foundations and the young gifted generation.
In my view we need a cohesive space for our community to not only socialise differently in a public space, but also network and showcase their businesses in order to develop. Venue space in this town is pretty poor in terms of availability. As a company, we have built a Hi-Fi on a large scale for events so people can listen to music and film as an experience never seen in this town. It is a shame the venue is not available.
We could mix artisan crafts with street food vendors, DJ’s, film screening, charitable events, theatres, book clubs, networking or venue hire for special occasions – all under one roof.
If anyone (including the Council) are aware of a space which could be utilised or radically revamped, we would love to hear from you.
The space could be crowdfunded, our community uses the space whilst investing in the project for use in conjunction with the brilliant people we have in our town.