With ever more shops closing in Lewes, it raises the questions of what is going wrong? Why are so many shops closing? And what can be done to reverse this trend?

Yes, we have had both Paperchase and M&Co., very recently go into administration, and a couple of other shops have closed due to retirement, but what about all the others? There are also premises that have been standing empty for years – even before the pandemic.

Coronavirus of course didn’t help matters, many more people got into the habit of shopping online, and they continue with this today rather than shopping in the high street. However, high rent and rates, the cost of living, and parking issues all have significant effect on sales.

Lewes Chamber has been extremely concerned about this, and have wanted to hear from retailers how difficult it is to have a business on the high street. Therefore, Lewes Chamber of Commerce has set up the “Retail Advisory Group” to find out from shop owners (and similar) what difficulties they face, and how the Chamber can do more to promote and support the industry.

Chamber President, Ashley Price, approached businesses along the high street from the Cliffe to the bottleneck, and also The Needlemakers (a building full of boutique shops, which is often overlooked by shoppers). Those who want to be part of the group currently are:

• Louis Potts (Cliffe High Street)
• Grape Tree Health Foods (Precinct)*
• Alexis Dove (School Hill)
• Barbican Carpets (School Hill)
• A Gateway to India (Needlemakers)
• Squisito Restaurant (Needlemakers)
• Kings Framers (upper High Street)
• Beckworths (upper High Street)

* It should be noted that Robert Urquhart – the Manager of Grape Tree – is part of the Group in his own capacity as having had many years experience in the town. His comments and suggestions would be his own, not necessarily reflect Grape Tree.

The first meeting of the Retail Advisory Group will be held in the next couple of weeks. Ashley wants to hear first hand what the issues shops and similar face, and the barriers to opening a shop in the town.

If there are other shops or similar businesses (e.g. restaurants and cafés) on the high street, on roads off, or in the Needlemakers, who would like to join the Group, they would be more than welcome. Please email secretary@leweschamber.org.uk