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Battling to keep independent shops in Gravesend alive

PUBLISHED: 10:05 14 February 2013 | UPDATED: 12:40 14 February 2013

Flower pot

Flower pot

Archant

With the collapse of high street giants Jessops, HMV and Blockbuster within the space of a few days, there is good reason to worry about the state of commerce in Gravesend and Dartford.

Tri Bike ShopTri Bike Shop

They join other big names such as Comet and JJB Sports, begging the question of just what does it take to succeed in business during tough times?

The Reporter speakers to three traders from local stores to find out how they’re faring on the high street and adapting to competition from big chains and the online world.

Richard Ray, Nuxley Toys

Nuxley Toys
Richard RayNuxley Toys Richard Ray

We are in the same boat as anyone else. It could always be busier, but we are plodding on regardless. We have had to adapt over the years. You used to go to the supermarket to get your food, now you can buy a television, clothes and toys there. We used to have Monopoly for £9.99 and I walked into ASDA and they were £4.99. We have had to adapt to that and we specialise in toys like puzzles and dolls house that are different to the run of the mill stuff.

We still have a big regular clientele and we sell products on eBay. That has grown a lot in the last five years. A website might be something we do in the future.

We have been here for almost 40 years. We used to have four shops. The most recent closure was the Welling store last year.

When the council did free Saturday parking I am sure we were busier, but business rates are never going to go down and that’s one of the big reasons why the Welling shop closed down.

Joe Tickener, Tri’s Bike Shop

We are quite lucky as we have a good customer base. We don’t sell many children’s bikes anymore because of ASDA selling them and we can’t compete with their prices.

Our lowest priced bike used to be £99 but now the supermarkets are pumping out those numbers so our lowest is now £130.

It’s easier to sell electronic products online but cycles will break down and you need to get them fixed. You can buy bikes online but you have to know what you are looking for.

We do price-match with most online stores but there are brands selling from Europe and people buy directly from them online and that’s our main problem.

When it was free parking at the weekends it was much better. Gravesend high street is slowly falling apart. All the council needs to do is drag more people into town or reduce the business rates. But we have been here for more than 40 years and I’m pretty confident we will be for a long time more.

Frankie Davison, Flower Pot

We are quite lucky we are still really busy. I know there’s a recession but we are doing well. We did close one store down and move it, and the customer spend is less but we have got more customers. A lot of our success is down to putting a lot more effort into marketing and advertising.

Online and supermarkets are both our competition. We have to be one step ahead. Yes a supermarket is going to be cheaper but is the quality as good and are they as creative? If you want a quick bunch of flowers it’s fine but if you want something special you will always need a florist. We still sell basic products but we specialise in unusual tropical flowers that supermarket don’t get.

Flower Pot has been around for 45 years and we took over six years ago. We closed three other stores to cut our overheads but have kept all our customers.

I don’t think the council is supportive of independent businesses. Our weekend sales have dropped since Saturday parking charges were introduced. They could do a lot more to attract people into Gravesend and supporting new businesses.

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