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Big Debate: Independent or big chain shops?

09:00 26 July 2012

Trevor Payne of J M Danslow butchers

Trevor Payne of J M Danslow butchers

Archant

Both Dartford and Gravesend high streets are in the process of being revamped to breathe life back to the town centres. However, the ability for independent retailers to survive among large chain stores remains in question.

Earlier this month Gravesend celebrated Independents Day - a national campaign to champion local retailers.

Many small retailers signed up to arrange special one-day offers to promote their services in the high street.

For Trevor Payne, owner of J M Danslow Butchers - which has been in Windmill Street in Gravesend for 40 years - one day was not enough.

He said: “It is something we need to get across to the local community. They think it is cheaper in the supermarkets but it isn’t. Their offers are misleading.

“We keep our meat local and very fresh and we deliver too - all they have to do is phone up.

“We have a dedicated customer base and people know we will always be here.”

New developments in the area favour national chains - a new Tesco Express is being planned for Whinfell Way in Gravesend, and the regeneration of Lowfield Street in Dartford will include a 24-hour Tesco Extra along with other big-name shops.

Cllr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Gravesham Borough Council

A while ago I was in Gravesend Market filming a video to go with the council’s Mary Portas bid for £100,000 to boost one of England’s oldest markets.

As stallholders told me, it has been in decline for the past 20 years. That means fewer stalls employing fewer people.

Speaking to young people it was clear that they liked the idea of a market but the one we have didn’t inspire them.

Almost two thirds of all the shops in Gravesend are independents. Every successful town needs more than just a few big name chain stores – it needs the right mix of big attractions and niche, specialist shops to make it special. Take the small shops away and the bigger stores might just as well move out to another anonymous, enormous mall.

Take the chain stores away and the independents will struggle to attract enough custom. We need to create the climate for big and small to thrive through sensitive regeneration to make the town’s offering more attractive.

Emma Boyes, 34, London Road, Farningham

I feel a real conflict when it comes to choosing between shopping at small, personally owned businesses and large chain stores. I love the feel of going into a small shop, speaking to someone who really cares about their business and knows about their products.

I particularly like shopping at my local butchers in Farningham, they’re very friendly and the meat is always good. Unfortunately, shopping this way very often comes with a higher price tag than shopping in a larger shop. There’s also the convenience factor.

I generally get my shopping delivered from Tesco and it’s actually cheaper and more environmentally friendly for me not go to the shops.

As a mother of two small children, having someone arrive at your front door and deliver your shopping straight into your kitchen is particularly luxurious! When I’ve forgotten something, I head to Asda in Swanley to pick up what I need. It’s a big store with everything available in one shop and there’s always plenty of parking including baby and toddler spaces which make it much easier to get the children out of the car.

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