An informative report as been published to highlight the “positives and negatives” of businesses located on a Flintshire High Street.
HaygarthBerry Associates, based in Buckley, conducted a report to provide support for visual merchandising and window displays for businesses on High Street, in Holywell.
The report estimated Holywell has a catchment of 27,000 people, plus the thousands of visitors who visit St Winefride’s Well and Greenfield Valley, which is “sufficient” to support a functioning town centre retail offer.
The independent body, in the report, stated: “Holywell is witnessing unprecedented levels of vacant shops, decreasing visitor/shopper footfall and poor local customer loyalty.
”There are strong views against the part pedestrianisation (timed) of the High Street and parking charges generally. The proximity of two national stores which have free parking for customers [Tesco and Lidl] and Home Bargains occupying 25 per cent of the main town car park are contributing factors to the leaking of business from the smaller High Street shops.
”The Holywell Town Partnership commissioned this Visual Merchandising Study to understand if there are other contributing factors to the demise of the town centre retail offer and lack of footfall. In particular the first impression that a shopper would experience when approaching businesses – ther window display, how they promote their business and any other factors.”
HaygarthBerry Associates looked at other similar sized towns to Holywell in North Wales to draw comparisons.
The independent body conducted an observational visual survey of window displays in the town and believed factors such as a high percentage of vacant premises, poor window displays lack of signage and poor exterior maintenance gave a negative impression on the High Street.
Sue Haygarth, founder of the organisation, held a meeting with Richard Jones, Flintshire council regeneration officer, and Chris Rees Jones, conservation officer for Flintshire council, where she highlighted Holywell town centre “seems to be suffering more than other market towns in North East Wales” and that the council should consider “additional support”.
She advised businesses who are struggling to seek “robust support” from Planning and Conservation at Flintshire council to “encourage or require works to vacant properties” on the High Street and suggested they should make an application for match funding.
She added: “[Businesses should] devise a programme of works which promote the heritage of the town by encouraging better maintenance, utilising the hanging sign rackets, recognising important buildings using heritage plaques. With advice and support such a programme could attract 70 per cent funding from Cadwyn Clwyd [a rural development agency].”
The report was discussed at a meeting with Holywell town councillors and Martin Fearnley, community engagement officer, confirmed the results will be reviewed and followed up with support from the Business Sub Group of the Holywell Town Partnership.
Cllr Rosetta Dolphin said: “It’s good for the town and it will be better than looking at empty shops and bleak shutters. The big concern is when the bams go because we’ll have those big empty buildings too.
”Everyone says there’s nothing in Holywell but the problem is what do we put there. We want something that is going to thrive so the people of Holywell need to back it.
”We get loads of complaints but they don’t shop in the town. It’s hard for the businesses to keep going when people aren’t going to shop there. We need more people to invest in Holywell.”
See full story in the Leader