After the recent announcement that Debenhams in Hanley could close, retailers in North Staffordshire and The Potteries are asking if the traditional high street shop has a future.
Last year 475 high street stores in the West Midlands went out of business.
In Stoke-on-Trent 20 shops closed and only eight new stores were opened.
The number of banks in Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Potteries fell dramatically while the number of cafes and fast food takeaways increased.
No one can deny that 2018 was a turbulent year for retailers.
The continued growth of online shopping and the ever-rising costs of running a high street business are having a devastating effect on town and city centres throughout the region.
West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway are introducing new timetables in May, and there will be more trains running between major cities and airports.
Many of these trains will run from London Euston via Birmingham New Street to Wolverhampton, Walsall, Stoke-on-Trent and Liverpool.
Three trains an hour will operate to and from London Euston every day, and the number of eight-car trains is being increased.
“Chatty Cafe” comes to Longton’s Victorian Market on Wednesday 27th February.
When you’ve done your shopping, visit the “cafe” at the community stall opposite the wool stall.
The “cafe” is a place where you can stop for a natter, meet new people, make new friends, put the world to rights and have a laugh before you go home.
MPs who are members of the housing, communities and local government select committee have called on the government to reform business rates.
Business rate reform could give local shops in Newcastle-under-Lyme and The Potteries a lifeline enabling them to survive.
The MPs say that unfair business rates make it impossible for high street stores to compete with online retailers.
They have produced a report that calls for reforms which will revive dying town centres and bring them back to life. The report states that unless the government steps in to help, high street stores face a bleak future and shopping centres will start to look like ghost towns.
The committee wants the government to give small traders a chance to survive by taxing online sales and giving local authorities more money to spend on town-centre regeneration.
There are exciting times ahead for traders in Tunstall Market and their customers.
A new market manager will be arriving in a few weeks.
The market traders’ forum is making plans to increase the number of traders and attract new customers. An advertising campaign is being launched to publicise the market and the wide variety of high-quality goods and services offered to customers.
The old library building in Stafford’s town centre could be turned into flats and a restaurant if plans for its development are approved by the borough council.
If the development plans are approved, the interior of the Grade II listed building, which housed the town’s main library, will be regenerated and transformed into ten single bedroom flats and a bar-restaurant with two sports television lounges.
A design and access statement submitted with the application says: “This new proposed use for the building will offer a vibrant addition to the food and leisure facilities of the town centre. The accommodation will offer young and retired alike a maintenance-free lifestyle within a quality building.”
Stoke-on-Trent City Council plans to give Dimensions, which is one of the city’s largest leisure centres, a £300,000 facelift.
The major upgrade will give the centre in Scotia Road, Burslem a new gymnasium.
Work on the project will start in April. When the new gymnasium opens, the existing gymnasium will be turned into an exercise studio.
Councillor Anthony Munday, the cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, is reported as saying:
“This project is a positive investment in our leisure services which will improve what we can offer to our residents. The changes reflect our commitment to improving health and wellbeing for a wide range of age groups. We want to encourage more people to become active, and I’m sure these improvements will play an important part in doing that.”
MPs want Town of Culture competitions to be held in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to give each country its own town of culture.
During a debate on the proposal in the House of Commons, MPs from towns throughout the UK spoke about the cultural activities in their constituencies and the potential for cultural development. Members expressed their frustration that there had been hardly any discussion about the beneficial effect of culture on towns despite the long-term cultural and economic benefits the title UK City of Culture had brought to cities.
Spotlight on North Staffordshire and The Potteries believes there should be competitions in all parts of the UK to create national towns of culture. These competitions would give local towns like Congleton, Leek, Nantwich, Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stafford the opportunity to bid to become England’s town of culture.
All over the country, town centre shops have been forced to close because of the popularity of online shopping.
More than 20,000 high street shops closed last year, and 23,000 are expected to close this year with the loss of 175,000 jobs.
Traditional high street shops, cafes and restaurants face an uncertain future unless the government and local authorities take positive steps to help them survive.
Mike Ashley, the owner of Sports Direct, who has called for a sales tax to be imposed on goods purchased from online retailers, is reported to have said that without government help the high street will be dead by 2030.
However, the government is refusing to impose an online sales tax which it believes would breach EU rules and the “divorce agreement” Mrs May has reached with Brussels.