Is Thetford’s high street under threat?
After Argos announced it is to close its town centre store, should Thetford residents be worried about the future of their high street?
Mike Brown, a business consultant and deputy chairman of the Thetford Business Forum, has said he believes the high street is under threat, but it is very much a national concern.
However he has said the town’s high street is going through a transitional period and moving away from a focus on retail.
Mr Brown said: “I think the high street is under threat, as are most high streets, because of the internet revolution.
“It is moving towards Thetford town centre no longer so much being a retail experience. I think it is more of a place to go out for a drink and to eat and watch a film. It is in a stage of transition.”
The town centre boasts a number of national chains, including Costa Coffee, New Look, Peacocks and WHSmith but Mr Brown has raised his concerns with the lack of independent retailers.
“It is very worrying in comparison to Attleborough and Watton,” he said. “It would be wonderful it we could attract them here.”
He added: “We need to maintain free car parking in the town and better signage would be a jolly good thing. And maybe a bit of effort to brighten it up and tidy it up a bit.”
Argos’ new shop will open inside Sainbury’s on May 3, replacing the Riverside Walk store which is due to shut a day earlier.
What does an independent shop owner think?
Ian Hilton, who owns J Jones Family Butchers on King Street, said if shops continue to close people will start asking why they should come into Thetford.
He said: “It is not easy out there. Luckily we have the banks here and you get a lot of people who come in to use them.
“You worry but what can you do. I think when you hear what others are saying they are struggling a little. The only thing that’s saving us is regular people coming from different places to see us.
“Maybe what is needed are some other different shops.”
Many residents have raised their concerns on Facebook about the high street’s future in response to the closure of Argos.
Lynn Nicholls said: “I haven’t got a problem with Argos relocating to Sainsbury’s, but I’m able to drive there, not everyone can. Just hope we get a decent retailer to replace it and it doesn’t stand empty for ages.”
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