The demise of the independent shop is certainly not a new phenomenon.
For years we have been warned about traditional high streets closing down, with the larger supermarkets blamed for muscling in on these smaller businesses.
But the threat to small traders is not just hanging over our traditional high streets, it is now hitting some of the city’s flagship shopping centres.
The number of empty shops in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade is a sad vision indeed and as the recession continues to bite, the slowdown in retail trade can only make things worse. So as Helen Hulston fights for survival, she can only be applauded for launching an initiative social networking with other store owners in a bid to ride the recession.
The city council has already launched a scheme offering financial assistance and advice to independent retailers who are in this predicament and it is hoped that the benefits of this will soon be seen.
The city centre has more than 100 independent stores, which has helped it officially to be ranked as the best shopping destination in the UK outside London.
It is therefore imperative that as well as the city council’s backing, shoppers also show their support in order to keep these businesses going.
The traders themselves must also play an active role in helping themselves and so it is good to see Helen Hulston’s campaign plans.
As the Federation for Small Businesses has warned, these traders are not just part of the local community but are the local community. Fifty per cent of the money that is spent in independent small shops finds its way back into the local economy compared to five per cent spent in big supermarkets.
The FSB claims we are sleepwalking into disaster by not helping these independent traders enough and if Birmingham is to retain its coveted title as a centre for small retailers, it is vital that people support them.
In January more than 100 Kings Heath traders warned they were months away from closure.
The local business association came up with plans to transform the fortunes of the high street by urging people to shop locally and these actions appear to have helped so far.
It is hoped that the social networking plans proposed by Helen Hulston will now keep trade going in the Great Western Arcade and prevent many independent traders from going out of business.