Saturday, 17 January 2009

Margate shops

Having just got round to yesterdays Isle of Thanet Gazette one of the articles to interest me the most as a small shopkeeper was the one about the closure of Peter Newman’s shoe shop in Margate click here to read the article online.

I notice that they are not closing their shops in Ramsgate of Birchington and this does rather beg the question, why are things so much worse in Margate than in the other Thanet towns.

Sandy Ezekiel says in the article. "I am extremely sad to hear the news. The company is a friendly, family-run business. I and extend my sympathy to the staff. You only have to walk down to the Old Town to see how Margate is improving but because of the credit crunch and the lack of support from central government we can’t make the things we want to happen, happen."

We went shopping in Margate last in 2007 I took some pictures then and frankly they were so depressing that I didn’t publish them, I have now click here to view them, we found the town centre very depressing and it was after this experience that we decided to boycott out of town shopping.

I think now we have reached the point where we need to look at why Margate town centre has suffered so much more than the other Thanet towns, Ramsgate in particular has similar problems but doesn’t seem to have suffered so many closures.

It is evident looking at the pictures taken a year before the credit crunch that this isn’t what was responsible for the dire situation, one also wonders what support central government could give that would alleviate the situation.

Obviously considerable investment is being made in Margate especially in the direction of modern art, so far it doesn’t seem to be working.

18 comments:

  1. b of birchingtonJanuary 17, 2009 3:15 pm

    I have lived in Thanet for over 60 years and I think Margate town centre is heartbreaking. It is obvious that Westwood Cross has drained the life from Margate and to a slightly lesser degree from Ramsgate as well. I am sorry but the credit crunsh is not the culprit here. It isn't helping but the rot set in with the out of town shopping centre was the start. Very sad.

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  2. Michael, as a shopper i do not shop in town centers. (unless I want specialist stuff).

    Reason. I want Friendly staff, all the goods I want under one roof, and a single place to load my goods into my car. my view is stuff margate ramsgate and broadstairs, bring on Westwood, bluewater and lake side. I am the customer, let the high streets depart.

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  3. They might be spending lots of money but so were woolworths. Spending money does not equate to doing something useful. From what I can tell all the money has been spent on ego stroking launches, lunches and etcetera mostly in unfocused actions in the old town which has had the lion share of the non TDC office cash for years.

    Parking, rates, street improvements and incentives to temp the likes of HSBC to stay rather than close up and move to Westwood cross have failed to be offered and as such there is no traffic in the area and so no way to create it.

    Margate now offers exactly nothing I need other than a few pubs. That could be just me but honestly it has not met my needs for a long while. Having my bank move to Westwood (I'm a HSBC customer) and having Cliftonville offer me more means that Margate has become irrelevant to me as Westwood Cross (which also meets very few of my needs).

    That is what the problem is as it appears to me.

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  4. Although Margate is my town centre (I live in Westbrook), I now find the place so depressing that I almost never shop there. I agree with Michael that we should support town centres though, so more often than not I do my weekly shopping in Birchington (I generally walk there & then get a bus or train back with my bags of shopping).

    "B of Birchington", I find the staff in most the shops I visit in your town to be very friendly & helpful, & not just because they're told to be polite as in the bigger stores.

    I'd be lying if I said I never shop at Westwood Cross (I was there yesterday for the first time in weeks), but only generally when I'm shopping for things that I can't find in Birchington (cheap blank DVD discs for example).

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  5. Perhaps Sandy should explain in a bit more detail the things he wants to happen in Margate.
    For example the Tudor House in Margate is closed and looks like staying closed, yet he has the power to make something happen there.
    The Margate Museum is closed to the fee paying public but is open for people who wish to research. Yet, there is very little information available to say the museum is open for research.
    The political decisions by TDC in 2008 regarding heritage and museums has been appalling, ill thought out and has done damage to TDC's ruling groups reputation. This will certainly lose them votes from the heritage communtity in Thanet at the next local elections without doubt.

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  6. To blame the credit crunch just shows how out of touch TDC remain. The decline happened a long time before, and to put art in empty shops was not what the general public wanted. Morrisons are reported taking over the Somerfield store, that is what the people in Margate need, and will bring people to Margate. Local people are mainly poor and cannot afford the latte cafe society that TDC and all have encouraged.Areas such as Dreamland should have been redeveloped etc. There is simply nothing in the town for visitors and local shoppers etc, Yet all the road signs remain for the visitor attractions, that are not open and are misleading. No wonder vistors expections are so disappointed when they visit. TDC seems blinkered to decline yet they only have to walk out of the council offices to see it.

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  7. I think Mr Ezekiel needs new spectacles - how can he say Margate is improving? We all hope it will and we all care about our neighbouring town but at the moment it is looking pretty sorry for itself - poor old Margate. When you look at photos of how bustling and thriving the town was a 100 years ago it breaks your heart.

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  8. Westwood is obviously an important factor but I would draw your attention to an interesting analysis on the news last week, where the death of the high street everywhere was discussed and agreed to be a new chapter in retail evolution.

    In a nutshell and over the last twenty years or more, we have seen the change from smaller shops to retail chains dominating the High Street and the latter are now migrating more succesfully to the out of town malls where they can operate more succesfully.

    Away from the malls and at suitable distance, towns like Birchington can survive but get too close and business suffers.

    What will happen then? Speculation surrounded a return to more service-oriented retailers, even shoemakers and watchmakers who can do repairs. One can't accomodate the town centre either without turning the surrounding areas into huge car parks and destroying what one seeks to preserve in the process.

    All a council can do is to encourage the return of retailers by providing a safe, attractive and clean environment. Councils exist to provide public services and not businesses and problematically - see my own blog -councils are fast running out of money thanks to the present financial crisis.

    I would be fascinated to know what readers here would do diferently without spending public money that doesn't exist?

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  9. Those accusing the council of doing nothing should look at the facts.

    They have no cash to spend on making the place look good, and every time they try to sell something to pay for improvements the anti-brigade jump all over them.

    When they do spend money on Margate, the Ramsgate squad jump all over them.

    They have little or no control over business rates levels, apart from very short term reductions to help in specific circumstances.

    Most big leisure companies wouldn't touch Dreamland because it has such a short season and naff image.

    The truth is of course that the council has been supporting the Turner Contempoary for more years than I care to remember as a means to regenerate Margate in general and the town centre in particular. The formula has worked in other places, and there is no reason to suppose that it will not work here either. It is not their fault that government and government agencies have not been as supportive as they could and should have been.

    But then Margate is Tory and in the cosy south, so doesn't deserve even a portion of the billion each that went into Liverpool and Hull.

    And as for small independently owned shops having polite and helpful staff - Ha Ha.

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  10. I won’t attempt to reply to you all just pick up on a few points.

    15.58 In or out of town you are going to find friendly and unfriendly staff, depending on the retail set-up some will be untrained and on the minimum wage with very little reason to care, in the windup if Woolworth’s in Ramsgate one thing I noticed was how friendly and courteous the staff were, despite the fact that they were all about to lose their jobs. I am afraid that going out of town for all your shopping and leisure isn’t environmentally sustainable, it’s really all down to how you feel about the next generation being able to breath and what you think a couple of meters rise in sea level would do to us.

    Matt I think properly managed parking schemes especially those that help too smooth out the problems during peak times are part of the solution and I think if Westwood Cross doesn’t soon adopt something like this many businesses there will probably fail as their turnover appears to be limited by parking and road infrastructure.

    Tony I am with you on trying to get the most out of out existing heritage sites as possible, we have enough of them in Thanet that with proper management and coordination we could offer a family all weather day out.

    Simon I would think that we are eventually going to have to move away from the throw away society and return to one where we make things that are repairable.

    With the town centre shops one of the biggest problems is that shop rents and rates relate to the period before Westwood Cross, I think it would be very helpful if the council were to approach landlords and the rating office to try and come up with some solution to this problem.

    There are other factors too, for example the pedestrianisation of Ramsgate was never finished properly, so it doesn’t work properly, also for what appears to be purely the political decision to support the development around York Street the tourist information office was moved to where tourists can’t find it. I am not familiar enough with Margate to be able to highlight similar problems there, however I suspect they exist.

    Finally I feel if we make an effort to try and understand why Margate is having worse problems than the other Thanet towns, Ramsgate in particular as it is most similar it may be possible to see some solutions.

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  11. Government aren't looking to help business.

    I believe legislation is coming to give Council's an opportunity to increase business rates to supplement council spending.

    Seems a bit crass in the midst (start?) of a recession.

    Perhaps your Labour chums could confirm?

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  12. 10:19, tell us where art has worked to regenerate?

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  13. I think B of Birchington has hit the nail on the head.

    I have to conclude that Margate has become the failure capital of the UK. Saddens me immensely.

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  14. Michael, 10 years ago (when I first moved to Westbrook) there was a superb tourist information centre opposite Arlington House, so people getting off trains could easily find it. Now I doubt that even most local people could tell you where it is. So it's not a problem unique to Ramsgate.

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  15. I have to admit to having got out of touch with Margate and am looking for problems like hiding the tourist information office that could probably be redressed easily and cheaply to start on slowing the rot.

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  16. I am not surprised Margate is dead as a town centre Westwood Cross though partly responsible isn't fully responsible or else Ramsgate would have suffered the same level of store closures. Broadstairs does very well - I think you need to look at your wonderful Thanet District Council and the lack of vision in employing a town centre manager that actually does a job of reinventing margate town centre

    The fact you don't have a department store M and S or BHS or Next doesn't help your town I live in Deal which for years was a dead town its not great here but even our town centre though with more vacant shops has an M and S and a Clarks shoe shop and our town centre I would say is much much better than Margate's and I do hope it stays that way I would not shop at Margate other than for Primark and when they open one in Canterbury I won't be going to Margate - I hope something is done to stop margate becoming a ghost town at the end of the day elderly people and vulnerable people who live there don't want to catch a 3 mile bus or taxi to westwood which is geared to the car

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  17. I am a resident of Westbrook, and have lived in Thanet my whole life, just over 30 years. I have witnessed first hand the slow death that Margate has suffered. The only thing in Margate centre that holds my interest is my bank, which i visit maybe twice a month. Other than that, there is nothing. Its become a chav's playground. And as most of these terrible creatures do not hold the ability to drive, my obvious choice for shopping is either Westwood Cross, or Canterbury. Personally, I'm very fond of the high street environment, so I often drive to Canterbury for all my needs, except for general grocery shopping for which I use sainsburys at westwood. ...with the loss of Dreamland amusement park, and the sea-front cinema,combined with the white elephant that is the turner centre, Margate's demise is assured. A sea-side town's main draw is its tourist trade during the summer, with the locals supporting it off season. Neither is now possible, and thus the end of Margate is certain.

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  18. I am a resident of Westbrook, and have lived in Thanet my whole life, just over 30 years. I have witnessed first hand the slow death that Margate has suffered. The only thing in Margate centre that holds my interest is my bank, which i visit maybe twice a month. Other than that, there is nothing. Its become a chav's playground. And as most of these terrible creatures do not hold the ability to drive, my obvious choice for shopping is either Westwood Cross, or Canterbury. Personally, I'm very fond of the high street environment, so I often drive to Canterbury for all my needs, except for general grocery shopping for which I use sainsburys at westwood. ...with the loss of Dreamland amusement park, and the sea-front cinema,combined with the white elephant that is the turner centre, Margate's demise is assured. A sea-side town's main draw is its tourist trade during the summer, with the locals supporting it off season. Neither is now possible, and thus the end of Margate is certain.

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