SOUTHEND has shown a steep increase in the number of businesses closed last summer, according to recent research by Duport.co.uk.
During July, August and September last year, the number of companies closed in Southend rose to 199, a 55 per cent increase on the same period in 2011. Businesses start ups also also fell by 10 per cent as the town struggles through a double-dip recession.
Southend High Street has suffered since the start of the recession, with the independent handbag store Buzz closing in March 2012, and big household names such as Woolworths, TJ Hughes, JJB Sports and Jessops disappearing.
There are still several vacant units in the Victoria shopping centre and the High Street, and just off the High Street in Alexandra Street are two empty former restaurants, the former Il Vicolino and Onyx.
Despite the gloomy figures, David Burch from the Chamber of Commerce is upbeat and warns not to be too alarmist.
He said: “There is a lot of vibrancy across Essex, and in Southend, and businesses cease trading for a variety of reasons. Sometimes there is no longer a demand for them, or someone else has moved in, and sometimes people decide to have a change because they have had enough of running a business. Businesses need to find mentoring and seek support in difficult times.
“It is disappointing when any business ceases trading, and that is as true in Southend as it is anywhere, but there is the airport expansion, the seafront, and the potential devolved funding from central Government for City status and regeneration, that will help pick business in Southend back up again.”
Ian Gilbert, leader of the Labour Group in Southend, has been asked to chair a project group looking into working better in partnership with businesses to deliver growth and jobs.
He says: “Clearly these figures show how difficult the economic situation is in Southend. Our unemployment figures continue to lag behind those of our neighbours suggesting there are deep-seated problems that are not being tackled.
“Our town has huge advantages as a place to do business but I fear that we are not making the most of them, and that there is more the council could be doing to boost the local economy in these tough times.”
Managing Director of Duport, Peter Valaitis said: “Like the rest of the UK, Southend-on-Sea is suffering from the effects of a double-dip recession. However, its seafront attractions and healthy tourist trade, not to mention its proximity to London, should go a long way to helping the town overcome the current economic challenges.”
The Duport Business Confidence Report for Southend also showed a reduction in the appointment of female directors, although the number of young directors appointed to new companies is on the rise.
For more information, see http://www.duport.co.uk/southend
Jack Monroe. Twitter: @MsJackMonroe. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org