'High Street's still got it' says shop owner celebrating 22 years

Bucks Free Press: David Turner David Turner

MARLOW’S retail sector is still in great shape despite increasing threats to profits, according to a shop owner who is celebrating over 20 years on the High Street.

David Turner launched ski and sportswear fashion outlet Turners in 1992 when he was 28, after working in retail since leaving school.

Celebrating his 22nd anniversary this month the entrepreneurial shop keeper, who lives in Cookham, admits there are growing pressures on independent businesses in an affluent shopping area like Marlow.

He said changes to people’s shopping habits have prompted the huge changes he has seen on the High Street during more than two decades in business.

But the 49-year-old, who runs the successful store with his with Lynda and manager of 22 years Anthony Roff, insists Marlow is still an attractive shopping destination.

He said: "The High Street has changed a great deal in that time partly because of changing shopping habits. People came to the High Street to shop as there was little competition from out of town shopping centres, big supermarkets or the internet.

"The High Street was a mix of traditional butchers, fishmongers and post office, with a good selection of individual shops.

"Marlow still provides a wonderful shopping experience. We have a good selection of small chains, some great coffee shops and a small selection of independents. But over recent years consistency has become a problem in Marlow with many shops trading for just a couple of years."

Though Marlow is known for its variety of independent traders and boutiques, several have closed in Marlow town centre over the past few months, prompting concern from business leaders.

Marlow Chamber of Trade chairman Tim Graham voiced his concern last month after wine merchant Alfred the Grape, printing shop WPS and boutique clothes store Daisy all brought down the shutters for good within a few weeks, but praised the good work of independent traders and the quality of service they offer.

And with the announcement that clothing chain Jigsaw and French cafe chain Cote Brasserie will open in Marlow this spring, national retailers continue to snap up prime retail premises in town.

Mr Turner puts his business’s success down to its ability to adapt to reflect the needs of customers, with his store selling outerwear and ski wear in the winter and lifestyle fashion and fitness products in the summer months.

And with the personal touch of knowing his loyal customer base, which the shop owner describes as "wonderful", he and his team are able to buy stock with specific customers in mind.

With growing competition from online retailers, increasing buying power from large chains and out-of-town shopping destinations like John Lewis, Mr Turner said small stores have it harder than ever before.

But the former John Lewis employee said Marlow needs more independent stores to make it a unique shopping hub, even though this could force rents even higher than they currently are.

He said: "All these factors have taken a hit on profits but upward-only rents at pre-recession levels do not reflect the fundamental changes that have taken place.

"I believe we need more individual shops in the High Street to attract people to Marlow. Marlow should stand out from the crowd. This is why shoppers have come here because it offers something different.

"The more successful a town becomes with its good selection of independents inevitably attracts more generic chains which then drive up rents that independents are unable to sustain.

"To get the right balance is a problem facing many High Streets up and down the country."

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