Friday, 20 July 2018

Selfish parking is costing us trade, say shopkeepers

TRADERS in a Henley street say their businesses are suffering because customers don’t have access to parking bays outside their

TRADERS in a Henley street say their businesses are suffering because customers don’t have access to parking bays outside their shops.

There are up to three parking spaces outside the shops on the corner of Reading Road and Station Road but the shopkeepers say they are almost always occupied.

The traders want to see some parking restrictions introduced so that customers would then be able to use the spaces instead of being put off and going elsewhere.

The shops include the Naughty Mutt Nice dog essentials and grooming store, Henley Cycles, Sparkes the jeweller, the Esquires barbers shop and Reids dry cleaners.

Aspen Weatherburn, 35, who owns Naughty Mutt Nice, said: “The shops on the parade are mostly services and the parking bays are very useful for our businesses and our customers because it’s important to have a quick turnaround.

“At the moment it’s a bit crazy because customers have to park in St Andrew’s Road and St Mark’s Road or even in the Waitrose car park just to come and see us.

“It seems a bit silly because there are these bays right in front of us but people are parking there all day. I don’t think it’s very courteous and it’s unfair on customers who can’t use them.”

Ms Weatherburn, who opened her shop four years ago, said the traders wanted the parking spaces to have a restriction of one hour’s waiting in order to ensure a turnover of drivers.

“It would mean people could then drop in — it’s really important for them to be able to park outside our shops,” she said. “For my business, people need to pick up dog food or drop off their dogs for grooming.

“I’ve had customers who have driven past and haven’t been able to park so were put off coming in, which isn’t great for them or for trade.”

The bay was created about 15 years ago following a campaign by the former owner of a fruit and flower shop that used to be in what is now Naughty Mutt Nice.

James Miller, 37, who has owned Henley Cycles for four years, said: “All the units here are pop in, pop out services that don’t take very long.

“The parking spaces are literally just to serve these shops, not so people can leave their cars here all the time while they catch a train to London.” He said he had asked drivers not to leave their cars outside the shops for a long time but was ignored.

“It’s an ongoing battle,” he said. “Once you stop someone doing it, someone else takes their place.”

He claimed potential customers drove by because they couldn’t park near the shop.

Mr Miller said: “A lot of the time if people can’t stop they won’t but will keep driving to the next bike shop, which is in Reading. Some people would rather spend £5 and an hour of their time driving there than park somewhere further away because it’s about convenience. It’s annoying.”

Sheila Clark, owner of Sparkes, said the spaces were critical to the sustainability of the businesses.

“Whenever anything new opens along here we all immediately get new customers from them so it’s important each new shop has a chance,” she said.

“It affects the bike shop and dog shop the most but it has been a recurring problem — we’ve been involved in various meetings over the years.

“I don’t think there’s a day that goes by without someone saying ‘if only there was somewhere to park’. It’s absolutely vital something is done. If vehicles are parked in the bays every day and we politely approach the owners they just don’t want to know. It’s unfair and frustrating.”

Kay Reid, who helps run Reids, said her business was not as badly affected as the other traders because there was some space outside the shop where customers parked while they were dropping off or collecting dry cleaning.

She said: “We’re lucky because we have our own space but sometimes the customers from the other shops park in our forecourt, which then stops our customers parking.”

Andy Latham-Brash, manager of Esquires, said: “We get people who want to come in but they can’t park so they don’t. It’s understandable because at the end of the day, everyone’s time is precious.”

Town centre manager Peter McConnell said he sympathised with the businesses but admitted they faced an “uphill battle” to rectify the problem.

He said: “Henley Town Council can’t do anything about it because it doesn’t have the authority of the highway. I’ve been along there and seen for myself that some people leave their cars there for a very long time and are quite obviously not shopping.

“It would be much better use of that bay if it had restricted parking in order to open it to a lot more users.”

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