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TMCNet:  'Online sales and aggressive tactics' hitting local retailers ; Smaller independent stores reporting drop in footfall [Lincolnshire Echo (England)]

[December 26, 2013]

'Online sales and aggressive tactics' hitting local retailers ; Smaller independent stores reporting drop in footfall [Lincolnshire Echo (England)]

(Lincolnshire Echo (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Traders in Lincoln are so far reporting mixed fortunes over the festive period.

Savvy customers hanging on for the best bargains and buying online have kept shopkeepers on their toes.

And smaller independent enterprises say they simply cannot compete with the fantastic sales offered by the High Street giants. Alison Clarke, owner of Pimento Fashion on Steep Hill, said online shopping and aggressive pricing strategies adopted by the major chains were making life tough for independent retailers.

"It is much quieter than last year - there is just not the same footfall," she said.

"Men are shopping online a lot which means they won't be coming to buy clothes for their wives. "If they can sit at home it's just much easier for them.

"We can't go online because of the costs involved.

"Also, going online would mean losing our individuality.

"The big stores are having a real price war on the high street and its hard for us to compete." During the last weekend before Christmas, Britons were expected to spend Pounds 1.3 billion - with one in three hitting the high street.

But on Saturday, December 21, dubbed Panic Saturday, it was not just local retailers who were lamenting the lack of footfall.

Andy Lee, business manager for the Lincoln Branch of jewellers H Samuel, said that despite the company's global sales being up 60 per cent on last year, his shop had not been as busy as predicted.

"This year has not quite lived up to my expectations," he said.

"The council needs to do more to get people in - parking is too expensive.

"People are going to shop online because they don't want to pay Pounds 10 to park.

"There is also more choice online. "It is killing the high street but there is not a lot you can do about it - you have to embrace it." Some retailers, however, were more optimistic.

Henry Ruddock, owner of Ruddocks of Lincoln, said turnover was up, with the majority of profit continuing to be made in store.

"We have significantly expanded over the last two years and our turnover is a little up on last year," he said.

"Do people really want to sit at home all day in front of the computer? "Online shopping is a useful facility but people want to get out, meet friends and have a coffee.

"This area is not dead - there is a lot going on in Lincoln." Richard Baxter, of sweet shop Goodies of Lincoln in The Strait, said sales had been good in the lead up to Christmas.

"I think online has affected trade a bit, but this shop has been here for 16 years and it has a good reputation.

"We have been busy all month and are up on last year." Shoppers Pat and Nicky Bell, from Nottingham, said they are drawn to Lincoln because of its large range of independent shops.

Mr Bell said: "We have bought some CDs, theatre tickets and other gifts online but we like meeting people and chatting to people.

"I would say our buying is about 50-50." Simon Beardsley, chief executive at the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce, said it is promising to note that Lincolnshire is experiencing a period of sustained economic growth.

He said: "Businesses have seen some tough challenges this year but 2014 will be met with greater optimism after the Quarterly Economic Business Survey, which takes a health check on Lincolnshire's local economy, has recently observed three consecutive quarters of economic growth.

"The January sales give the opportunity to kick start what is predicted to be a positive new year.

"We are though, still a nation that love a bargain or two and the sales at this time of year remain a tradition for many.

"The Chamber is very keen though to ensure that much of the spend takes place in our local economy which will give many smaller businesses a boost towards sustainability for the duration of the coming year." (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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