A lifeline for Island retailers?
A NEW retail strategy designed to boost St Helier’s struggling high street is due to be launched before the end of next month.
Economic Development Minister Lyndon Farnham confirmed that the final plans were still a ‘work in progress’, as recommendations from a recent Scrutiny review were being built into the report.
Chamber of Commerce retail and supply committee chairman David Dodge said the strategy needed to underpin wider government policy if it was to properly support the retail industry, as for too long States departments have been working ‘in silo’.
Senator Farnham largely accepted the recommendations made in the Retail in Jersey report – carried out by the Economic Affairs Scrutiny Panel – and will factor these into the final discussions into the strategy.
He said: ‘We have been working towards having the final strategy by the end of March and we are still on schedule for that.
‘We have responded to Scrutiny and we will be building the recommendations into the strategy.
‘The objective is to ensure that our retail sector remains not just viable into the future, but thrives.
‘It will be a continuing and evolving directive and once we have launched it, I plan to ensure it is updated annually.’
The Retail in Jersey report made a string of findings and recommendations including suggesting shops should provide customer-service training courses for all new staff, increase the use of new technologies and that the Economic Development Department should collect more comprehensive data to help assist ‘effective management’ of the sector.
Mr Dodge, who runs Vienna Bakery, said the new strategy had been a ‘long time coming’. He added that reviewing car parking prices – particularly in the north of town – would be a good start towards generating increased footfall in St Helier.
‘Any new strategy has to fit in with the other government policies – from strategic planning, town planning and our economic policies,’ he said. ‘We have to consider it among all the other strategic values.
‘Every policy that goes through the States Chamber should have consideration for its economic impact. It is foolish not to do that. Yes, put the community and the environment first but the third leg of the stool should be the economic benefits.
‘The north of town is suffering badly. The States should be looking at shopper parking in a similar way to airport parking. There are plenty of airports that have the first hour free and subsequent hours cranking up the cost. This model would make town accessible to everyone.’
He added that the while the strategy would be a welcome step, the States needed to allow the experts within the industry to develop their own plans without too much government interference.
‘I think the industry will look after itself,’ he said. ‘My personal view is that the States can have a very gentle hand on the tiller but there are plenty of top professionals out there who want to do a great job for Island customers.
‘The States support comes from ensuring a level-playing field and providing the infrastructure to allow the industry to flourish.’