Traders across Fylde and beyond have united behind Lytham Business Partnership’s bid to see the number of charity shops on high streets limited.
The Lytham traders’ organisation has called for Government action to help stem the surge of the charity stores which they feel are spoiling the image of the town and undermining their own businesses.
Leaders of St Annes Chamber of Trade and the Kirkham and Wesham Business Group have both expressed their support for the Business Partnership’s call – and messages of support have included one from a traders’ organisation in Scotland which has been making a similar call for action to the Government north of the border.
“We have been very encouraged by the messages of support we have received,” said Lytham Business Partnership vvice-chairman Robert Silverwood.
“It certainly seems as though our call has struck a chord and we intend to take the matter to the very highest level of Government if we need to.
“As we have said bedfore, we have nothing against the charities themselves but with the rules and rate relief incentives the way they are for the charities, it just isn’t a level playing field and we it really is time for something to be done.”
With the number of charity shops on Lytham’s main Clifton Street having now risen to nine, Business Partnership members are particularly concerned that charity shops, already allowed substantial rate advantages, are allowed to sell new goods meaning unfair competition for other traders.
John Moxham, chairman of St Annes Chamber of Trade, said: “I can certainly empathise with the Lytham Business Partnership’s call and agree and appreciate that there needs to be a mechanism to limit the number of charity shops.
“They are more noticable in Lytham because they are all gathered on the main shopping street. In St Annes, they are more scattered around but I feel there are still too many in The Square.
“Having said that though, it seems the people of Lytham St Annes enjoy charity shops, although I feel they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to sell new goods.
“But there isn’t a high street anywhere in the country which has found an answer to it yet and it needs a change to rules at the very top.
“I wouldn’t hold my breath, because politically it is a non-starter but I wish Lytham all the best in their efforts.”
Elaine Silverwood, chairman of Kirkham and Wesham Business Group, has long been calling for action to limit the number of charity shops and hopes Lytham’s efforts will be successful.
As a Fylde councillor, Elaine has tried unsuccessfully to press for changes to the planning laws to limit the number of charity shops, which in Kirkham is currently six.
“That is a very high number for a town this size but nothing can be done at local or county level – it needs a change from Government and we wish Lytham every success,” said Elaine.
“People aren’t going to make a beeline for a particular town centre because of the charity shops there. They will come for an eclectic mix of businesses offering a range of attractive goods and services and that is what we have to aim for.“
Among the messages of support for Lytham’s bid to change the laws to limit charity shops is one from Helensburgh Community Council, which has been making a similar call in a similar-sized town.
The number of charity outlets there has now gone to 10 and Community Council spokesman John Tacchi said: “We read about what Lytham Business Partnership is trying to achieve and we wish the traders there every success.
“We have been lobbying the Scottish government for a change in the laws here to limit the number of such shops because the situation is unfair on our established traders and it is spoiling the image of the town.
“Quite a few of these charities have very large turnovers and really shouldn’t be allowed to provide the competition to other businesses that they do.”
Lytham’s bid is already being backed by the Federation of Small Businesses, which hopes that new Government legislation to limit the number of betting shops in high streets might provide an opening for a similar decision over charity shops.
Gary Lovatt, FSB regional chairman for Lancashire and Cumbria, said;”While charity shops play an important role withing communities and are welcome, there is a balance to be met.
“When there are in some areas more charity shops than small business retailers, and some of those chairity shops are selling new goods, then things have clearly gone too far.
“We would welcome an extension of powers to local authorities to ensure that the high street remains predominantly about private sector retailers and that growth in number of charity shops can be controlled, as has been announced with regards to the number of betting shops.”