A FLAGGING Marlow shopping street is set to receive a shot in the arm after a major retail player announced a plan to encourage entrepreneurs to open short-term ‘pop-up’ shops.
Three newly refurbished stores are up for grabs at a fraction of the usual cost for budding retailers as part of a plan put forward by Sorbon Estates, the commercial arm of Shanly Group.
With several businesses along the strip closing down in the last six months, there are growing fears over the health of Spittal Street, which is littered with empty stores.
And the firm, which owns a raft of town centre properties, hopes the plan to offer cost-price deals to entrepreneurs struggling to make their way into a tough retail climate will give a much-needed boost for the area.
Senior Estates Manager Jonathan Gould said: "As a stakeholder in the town we take a keen interest in what is happening on Spittal Street.
"This is an ideal opportunity to offer new businesses or budding retailers to start something and give it a trial run in a top Marlow town centre location.
"We know there are several vacant units and wee the opportunity to turn them into active frontages with pop up shops.
"We are not looking for them to pay rent down there, just to get some activity going there and hopefully that’ll lease to long term lets either there or elsewhere within our portfolio.
"Footfall (on Spittal Street) has always been very good. The surveys we’ve produced have produced fantastic results and it is sometime higher than the High Street.
"It is perfectly placed, there is lots of parking and you have Waitrose and M&S along there. With new businesses there offering something a bit different, it will hopefully translate to more businesses coming in to the area."
Spittal Street has seen a glut of businesses leave in the past year, including boutique Ceremony, Bang and Olufsen, printing shop WPS and wine merchant Alfred the Grape.
Earlier this year, Marlow Chamber of Commerce chairman Tim Graham described the area as looking "at odds" to the thriving High Street.
Sorbon’s scheme at 25, 27 and 19 Spittal Street would offer independent retailers one of three recently refurbished units, with only business rates and utilities to pay.
The road is also set to undergo a revamp if a planned scheme goes ahead to overhaul pavements, lighting, signage and public areas.
Discussions for the project are currently underway involving Marlow Town Council and Wycombe District Council, as well as Shanly Group.
And if the firm's ambitious housing plan at Windsor House on Spittal Street goes head, the eastern end of Marlow town centre will also see an influx of new residents to revive the shopping quarter.
Last week, Mr Graham of Marlow Chamber of Commerce said a greater mix of retail outlets is needed in Marlow, claiming too many restaurants and cafes could harm Marlow’s prosperity.
And Mr Gould echoed the call for diversity, believing his company’s scheme could act as a domino effect, drawing more new shops and businesses back to the ailing section of the town centre.
He said: "We are doing this in conjunction with finding the right people to move in there on a long term basis. We are not going to go with the first one that comes to us.
"For instance we could let it to a betting shop or a pizza chain but we are looking for the right mix for the town, and involving independents.
"We are in discussion with several, but in the meantime we thought this would be a great idea.
"We all want to see Spittal Street shops fully let and active and short-term lets would look attractive to new retailers and it’s important in finding the right balance."