Shops across Adur recorded good sales in December as residents hit the high street for their Christmas shopping.
Susan Schofield, of Fox’s Greengrocer in Southwick Square, said she thought footfall had been ‘wonderful’ in the lead up to Christmas, which was ‘very busy’ for traders.
“It’s hard work for everyone in retail but it’s that Christmas windfall that helps to support us in the leaner months,” she said.
The unfortunate cancellation of Southwick’s annual Christmas market in early December due to severe weather conditions was a shame, she said, considering the ‘amazing’ event in 2017 had seen Southwick Square at its busiest for 25 years.
“It was extremely disappointing but we can’t control the weather,” she added.
A scheme introduced by Adur District Council for the second year running, which saw parking fees at Southwick Square car park waived every Saturday from October 20 to the end of the year, was ‘vital’ to helping traders, Susan explained.
She said: “The high street being as it is and competition with online, we need as much support as possible.
“If we don’t get the footfall we find it really hard to pay our rent.”
Mike Forrest, of Southwick Square Meats, agreed that the free parking on Saturdays ‘helped enormously’.
“It’s been immensely popular, as it always is,” he said. “That’s a big benefit for us.”
He said trade had been good over the Christmas period and ‘on par’ with previous years.
“We’ve got so many people that always come back to us at Christmas, so we’re quite pleased with that,” he said, adding that this was despite changes in the area such as the opening of Lidl by the seafront in 2015.
“We give a personal service, we have a laugh and joke with customers and that’s what they want,” Mr Forrest said.
However he said traders in Southwick were facing the same pressures as those around the country.
In Shoreham, Jose Heasman, of Shoreham Art Gallery, in Brunswick Road, reported a good December.
However she said: “We have struggled up this end since the Post Office has gone.
“It has a knock-on effect, we’ve lost our ‘pop-in’ footfall.”
She said the last-minute cancellation of the Light Up Shoreham shopping event, which was also down to bad weather, was ‘a huge blow’ to businesses but the art gallery was busy with shoppers who came to the town without realising it had been called off.
Looking forward, she said Shoreham needed more diverse businesses and independent shops, adding: “It’s important that rents are kept affordable to stimulate the high street.”
Councillor Emma Evans said the council was committed to doing what it could to ensure the high street remained ‘at the heart of our communities’.
She said the 2018 relaunch of Adur Markets had been ‘extremely successful’, bringing thousands of people into Shoreham and Lancing on Saturday mornings.
“We also continue to work with retailers on a number of projects,” she said.
“In the last few months free parking has been provided in the run-up to Christmas in Southwick, planters have been installed at various locations and we have worked with retailers to set up a new traders’ association in Lancing.
“Looking ahead, we have a number of exciting plans and continue to explore funding opportunities to support and develop our high streets.”