Entrepreneurship booming in Marlow, as visitors flock to town

Bucks Free Press: Entrepreneurship booming in Marlow, as visitors flock to town Entrepreneurship booming in Marlow, as visitors flock to town

ENTREPRENEURSHIP is alive and well in Marlow, with statistics suggesting it is one of the prime locations in the country for new businesses - but shopkeepers warn the public must continue to support local traders or risk losing them.

Figures from an organisation dedicated to supporting the Bucks business world also suggest the town could be getting a landmark number of visitors, with more than a million uses of Marlow's car parks in 2013.

Buckinghamshire Business First says that 175 new businesses registered with Companies House in the postcode area ‘SL7’ in 2013. This gave a rate of 122 new businesses for every 10,000 residents in the area - double the rate for the district overall, which itself has the 78th highest rating of 326 English local authorities, according to BBF.

Martin Spittle, an executive member of the Marlow Chamber of Trade and Commerce requested the figures from BBF and was broadly pleased at them. He said: "I think the figures are very encouraging. What we have got to do is look at the ways to make the best positive commercial advantage and tap into that enthusiasm there is for visiting Marlow.

"I think they (the statistics) were a bit of a surprise in the sense there has been definitely an improvement in the general feel of commercial business. I'm surprised they picked up that much."

He added it was vital the retail offering is kept up to date and moving forward with the times - and that an offering for all shoppers, whether visitor or resident, was the key to continued success.

He said: "You need to keep a balance of options to keep local people from leaping in their cars to buy staple goods from elsewhere."

BBF says the million-plus uses of Marlow’s car parks in 2013 is the highest annual total on record - an increase of 5.8per cent on 2012’s total and a massive 25 per cent increase on 2010.

Statistics provided by BBF also say that while the number of people employed in Marlow has fallen over the last four years, the number employed in retail has actually grown.

This is despite the number of retail businesses in Marlow falling by five to 110 last year - although this puts it back at the same number of retail businesses operating as in 2011.

The Children’s Shoe Company celebrates it’s first anniversary this weekend, and owners Sarah Cooper and Lisa Parkinson are calling for greater support for Marlow’s independent retailers.

Following the closure of shops such as Alfred The Grape, they say it is clear that - despite the statistics in the report - retail in Marlow remains tough for independent retailers.

A statement from the shop said: "We have worked really hard during our first year to focus on getting to know our customers, learning from their feedback and striving to deliver excellent customer service at great value. Our first year has been a success, but growth is now key for us – we can only do this with the continued and expanding support of our customer base. Use us or lose us; it really is that simple."

The shop plans to encourage shoppers through the doors with discount offers and competitions to mark its first year of trade.

But Mr Spittle, who is an associate director at accountancy firm Seymour Taylor, thought that key to the town's future economic vibrancy was its ability to welcome visitors. And this, he added, could be achieved by making parking simple and stress free and also keeping the traffic flowing smoothly through town to prevent Marlow from getting a reputation for having congested roads.

He said: "I think that's the point - nobody can sit still. The key is looking forward at ways to make the retail offering attractive, versatile and mindful of the tendency to use independent shops and making that offering unique."

He added Marlow's businesses needed to take a shared responsibility and create local jobs for local people to keep them working within the town.

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