THE LATEST scheme to put some life back into Ilkeston town centre has received the Advertiser’s full backing.
The borough’s regenration agency Erewash Partnership has been asking traders to break with tradition and open up on Wednesday afternoons in a bid to cash in on trade they might be losing.
For decades, businesses up and down Bath Street and South Street have shut up shop at lunchtime with some not opening at all on Wednesdays.
The partnership has said this needs to change in order for them to keep up with big chains and stay open in the current harsh economic climate.
“Shoppers’ needs must come first,” explained market towns co-ordinator Paul Calladine.
“And with more and more people turning to the internet, shops must remain open for as long as possible, providing good personal, customer service.”
There are also fears that shoppers could do their shopping in other towns or at out-of-town retail parks, threatening the viability of Ilkeston town centre.
Alongside the partnership, the Advertiser is urging traders to support a trial run of opening all day on Wednesdays from December 7 until the end of January.
In exchange, they will be offered a free promotional package, including being listed on both the Ilkeston town centre website and the partnership’s website, and free posters for shop windows.
Advertiser editor Peter Hemmett said: “This trial will give shops in the town a real opportunity to see if there is scope for keeping Ilkeston open on a Wednesday afternoon.
“This is a historic tradition in the town but times have changed and we need to make sure we are willing to move with them.
“But to make this a success, traders and residents need to ensure they work together and all join forces to give this a go.
“If only a handful of shops are willing to try this then no doubt it will fail before it starts.
“And if we as a town want to see this become a reality then we must also show our support by going out and using our local shops.”
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Traders have responded to the plans this week. Bath Street trader Ray Shelton said: “I’m one of those open-all-hours shops anyway.
“If there are customers in I’m open and I stay open as long as there are people shopping.
“I’m open into the evening sometimes, if there are people wanting to come in and shop I’m open whenever.
“I think it’s a case of moving with the times, most of the bigger shops are open all day on a Wednesday so I think it’s a good idea for the rest to be.”
But President of Chamber of Trade David Thorpe – owner of Thorpe’s in South Street – said the council should be doing more to support the trial.
He said: “It’s a good idea in principle, but we would look to the council to dig into its pockets. “Why not offer free parking on a Wednesday alongside this trial?”
Cllr Geoff Smith, Erewash Borough Council’s lead member for planning and regeneration, said: “This is a bold initiative designed to meet the needs of modern shopping trends.
“It could benefit traders - particularly in the busy time of the festive season and sales – and shoppers alike, and help keep Ilkeston as a thriving, competitive and sustainable retail centre. I hope all will support it.”