‘Sidmouth needs 30 more shops to encourage entrepreneurs’

Phil Weaver has organised late night shopping untill 8pm. Ref shs 42-16TI 0257. Picture: Terry Ife

Phil Weaver has organised late night shopping untill 8pm. Ref shs 42-16TI 0257. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Sidmouth needs ‘another 30 small shops’ to inspire entrepreneurs – and Port Royal or a town centre car park could be the ideal place to build them.

That is the argument from barber Phil Weaver, who said finding £50,000 to set up a store and try a business idea is impossible for most.

He claims £5,000 is more attainable, but aspiring traders have had few options since the indoor shopping centre closed seven years ago - so tough decisions have to be made.

“Sidmouth needs more small shops,” said Phil, who started out on a market stall in Bristol and now has a permanent premises in Church Street. “You need £50,000 to start a business here.

“We need small places where you can set up for £5,000, then you can see if your idea is going to work. If it does, you can plan for expansion.”

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He said the small units at Libra Court are great for encouraging people to try out their ideas, but it is not big enough to attract those from out of town.

“Honiton has antiques, but if you want artisan, you have to go all the way to Totnes,” added Phil.

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“Sidmouth could do that. It already has a certain quirkiness, an old-fashioned approach. It should embrace small businesses and an artisan approach.”

He said the 30 small shops – around a third more than the town currently has – could be built on the Mill Street or Roxburgh car park, or incorporated into plans for Port Royal, which is being considered for redevelopment.

‘Sidmouth is open for Christmas’ - a campaign to build on the momentum of Friday’s late-night shopping event by opening into the evenings on Thursdays before December 25 - was also Phil’s brainchild, but he concedes he has work to do to win people over with his new idea.

Becky Pope, of the Cheeseboard, which started 20 years ago in the indoor shopping centre, said more small shops would be a great way to attract more of the independents that the town is known for. But she disagreed that a car park should be redeveloped, arguing Sidmouth needs more parking, not less.

Avril Fowler, of Sambati’s, which also started in the indoor shopping centre, said: “If we were starting out now we wouldn’t be able to afford a shop – the rates in Sidmouth are ridiculous.

“Now, if you want to try a business, there’s nowhere to do it except the internet. It would be good if there was somewhere to try new things.”

What do you think? Email sidmouth.letters@archant.co.uk

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