Members of the Warwick community are hitting out against claims that ‘Warwick is a dying town’.
Last week The Courier ran a story about Paper Kisses in Market Place closing down, wherein the comment was given that footfall was decreasing and the town was dying.
The comment has sparked backlash from councillors and members of the business community who say the town is thriving.
Cllr Noel Butler, Warwick District Council’s portfolio holder for business, said: "In the article reporting on the closure of Paper Kisses in Warwick, Wendy Neale from the shop is quoted as saying ”The decision was made by Head Office and it is because of the lack of footfall. Warwick is a dying town.”
"As the portfolio holder for Business on the District Council I cannot allow this statement to go unchallenged.
"In 2017 the last year for which figures are available Warwick District as a whole showed an increase of 6.6% in inward trips when for the same year there was a fall of 11% in the West Midlands as a whole.
"Turning now to Warwick town; in 2017 there were 1.9 million inward trips of which 135,000 were overnight staying a total of 398,000 nights. In the same year there was a total visitor spend of £130 million and tourism supported 2,171 in the town.
"The last figures we have for vacancy rates in the town was October last year when it was 4.43% against a national average of 12%.
"These figures are not those of a dying town. There are plenty of visitors to the town it is up to the business to get them through their doors once they are in the town.
"Warwick is a vibrant, successful town with an excellent range of independent shops and a thriving night time economy. I feel it has a bright future and I think you will find shops will not stay empty long.
Speaking out about the ‘dying town’ comment, Sue Butcher, Chairman Warwick Chamber of Trade, said: “I do not accept this, because in these challenging times for retail generally, Warwick is doing well compared to many places. When shops become empty they are not staying empty for long.
“We accept that footfall has decreased and the risks from online shopping are great which is why Warwick Chamber of Trade along with Warwick Town Council launched the #Buyin2Warwick campaign which is highlighting everything that Warwick has to offer.”
Cllr Richard Edgington, on behalf of the #Buyin2Warwick campaign and Warwick Town Council, said: “Over the past few years active members of the community have worked hard to continue to raise the profile of Warwick to ensure that the town continues to thrive socially, economically and environmentally.
“Unfortunately, we have to face the reality that town centres have been affected by the growth of online shopping. This has resulted in High Streets having to respond to demand with market trends. This has led to the general increase nationally in restaurants, cafes and service-based businesses, and the closure of stores and chains.
“However, when you go into Warwick we are very lucky in that we are made up of passionate independent businesses and therefore have few empty shops. Whilst we benefit from this at present the High Street continues to change and in the past year town council colleagues and I have strived to work with local businesses to increase footfall and support our local economy.
“After our trial in 2018 the council will be employing four ‘town ambassadors’ in summer to sell Warwick to visitors and raise our profile. The work of #Buyin2Warwick is also continuing to grow.
“We strongly believe in Warwick and all of the fantastic businesses, attractions and people in it. With continued challenges facing our High Streets we believe it is a time for everyone to get behind Warwick and continue our successes and enhance our town centre even more.”