A LEADING business figure says he is concerned about the health of Marlow town centre after the sudden closure of three businesses but believes the town is vibrant enough to pull through.
Tim Graham, chairman of the Marlow Chamber of Trade, said Spittal Street is starting to look "at odds" as printing shop WPS, wine merchant Alfred the Grape and boutique Wonderland all bowed out over the last month.
The closures further add to the increasing list of empty retail premises along the strip, with electrical store Bang and Olufsen also bringing down the shutters for good.
But solicitor Mr Graham said although retailers face increasingly challenging circumstances, Marlow is strong enough as a town to bounce back.
He said: "There are retail success stories definitely, but there are also pressures that some people do not realise and ones that did not exist in years gone by.
"It is a high risk occupation and can be potentially ruinous, and the overheads can be excruciating. Some rents in Marlow are eye-wateringly high.
"I have been concerned that Spittal Street has started to look a bit at odds with a quite a few places empty or closing.
"But I don’t see it necessarily as a decline, more of a pause. Landlords are committed to getting good tenants in there.
"Marlow is far more vibrant than other towns in the area. Some towns are dying on their feet but Marlow is definitely not."
Mr Graham, who took up the chairmanship in October, said he is confident in six months time, new retailers will take up the mantle and fill the empty spaces.
He also pointed to the newly refurbished, purpose built shop premises recently completed to the east of Spittal Street as a positive sign.
Printing and stationery suppliers WPS closed this week after 25 years of trading, and four years in its Spittal Street premises.
Staff cited competition from online retailers as a major issue, with the store’s owner Carol Lamb announcing to customers the closure was due to "a struggle to make it work in the current economy".
Wine and spirits retailer Alfred the Grape closed suddenly in the lead up to Christmas, with boutique Wonderland disappearing in a similar fashion.
In the past, traders and politicians have bemoaned the loss of independent traders at the expense of national chains, but Mr Graham believes there is room for both in the town.
He said: "Marlow is a vibrant place full of unique independent businesses. Hunts is a great example of how this unique approach can pull businesses through.
"It is service that sets these businesses apart in what they can offer their customers. Gather and Hunt is a good example of an independent shop doing this.
"National chains can come in and they have the economies of scale and massive departments behind them, but they often don’t become part of the local business community.
"But I’m not anti national chains, there is a place for them, and people embrace the likes of Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and others."