Another big name to shut its Tivvy shop
INNOVATIVE solutions are needed to help bring vitality back to Tiverton's high street, according to traders.
Shoe firm Stead & Simpson is the latest retailer to announce its shop will close.
That comes amid uncertainty about the future of Clinton Cards, which is in the hands of an administrator, and follows the closure of Vacation World's town centre shop five weeks ago.
Staff at other Fore Street businesses say they hope more familiar big name stores will replace those which have closed.
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But the town's trading body believes a different approach is needed to prevent a gradual drain of the big boys from the town.
Laura Adcock, a supervisor with clothes shop New Look, said some areas of the market were not well catered for in Tiverton.
She said: "We get customers asking about men's and kid's clothing and because there aren't many places to get those items in town, they tend to go elsewhere."
She said only certain retailers were big enough to be able to afford large town centre premises and more is needed to be done to encourage them to move in.
Sharon Radley, supervisor at Holland & Barratt, felt shops popular with younger people and more attractions in the town centre would encourage people to support shops.
She said customer transactions and footfall were both down on last year, indicating that economic recovery was still a way off.
Aaron Franklin, deputy manager of Phones4U, said the closure of well-known stores at the Angel Hill end of Fore Street had affected the number of visitors the shop received.
He said: "We don't see as many people at this end of town, because they don't have much reason to come up here other than for Boots and Poundstretcher. Since Poundstretcher opened that has helped a bit."
The premises next door to the mobile phone shop was until recently occupied by travel firm Vacation World, whose closure at the end of May came as a shock.
"I came in that morning and by the time I went out at lunch, they had received a phone call and had closed the business, it happened as quick as that and was a real shock," Mr Franklin said.
The 24-year-old said he felt a shop selling CDs would be a good addition to the current selection of traders.
Car parking charges within the town are also an issue. Speaking at a recent meeting where rises which come info force this week were discussed, Councillor Mary Turner said she wanted to see "Tiverton buzz like it did before".
Writing in the first of a new column for the Gazette, the Tiverton Trade Association says the high rents demanded by landlords for town centre retail space need to be reduced to make Tiverton a more attractive place to do business.
Large town centre stores likes Waterstone's and Peacocks in Market Walk remain unoccupied after several months because landlords are demanding unrealistic rates from prospective tenants, the traders argue.
Stead & Simpson was founded more than 175 years as a leather merchants, but quickly expanded into manufacturing boots and shoes.
Four years ago, the Leicester-based firm went into administration and was acquired by the Shoe Zone Group.
A spokesperson for Shoe Zone confirmed the Tiverton store would be closing but declined to make any further comment or say how many jobs would be affected.
Mid Devon District Council learnt in March that the district had been awarded £100,000 in Government money through a High Street Innovation Fund. Discussion on how the money will be spent are ongoing.
Tiverton MP Neil Parish said he was very disappointed that Stead & Simpson was closing.
"Tiverton needs a broad mix of shops," he said.
"I support the trade association's call for rents to be reduced so they reflect the tough trading conditions and encourage more independent and national operators. Attracting more shops to Tiverton will be good for the town and will increase the value of commercial properties in the long run."