Shop owners ‘must create a vibrant town’

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GOVERNMENT support in providing transport and parking policies are vital if the high street is to flourish but shop owners must also work together to create a vibrant St Helier, a leading Island retailer has said.

Steve Jewell from Romerils

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic brought a government-imposed lockdown forcing the temporary closure of non-essential shops, retailers were lamenting a loss of trade to online shopping and calling for more action from the government, particularly with regard to reducing the de minimis rate of GST levied on online purchases.

However, Steve Jewell, the managing director of Romerils, says that the real emphasis should be on a concerted effort on the part of retailers to tempt people back into the town. He added that while he understood the government’s exhortation to ‘buy local’, he wanted to see shops give people a real reason to use them.

‘I genuinely want people to shop at Romerils because that is what they really want to do and not just because we are local. We have to provide the right service and give them a reason to shop with us. If we can’t do that, then frankly we don’t deserve their custom.

‘Excellence in customer service should be a basic offering from any retailer but you really have to go further. We believe in a form of retail entertainment where we put on product demonstrations, cookery shows, Santa’s grotto – it’s all about making shopping an event, something worthwhile that people want to be part of.

‘The more that retailers can work together and make the town vibrant, the better it will be for all of us. We all have to think about how we can do things differently and offer the customer experiences that are not available to them online.

‘Anxiety about the coronavirus resulted in more people working from home and therefore not coming into town. This also led to them buying more products online but it is our responsibility now to tempt them back – and they will come back to us if we do all the right things. It’s about making shopping enjoyable.’

Mr Jewell said that making sure that stores had the right people in place, along with the products people wanted at the prices they were prepared to pay, was a requirement of any business. However, he also believes that government does still have a vital role to play in helping to achieve success on the high street.

‘We need to have proper transport and parking policies that enable shoppers to use the town,’ he said.

‘We’re not asking for too much; just give us the opportunity to get the customers to us.’

lSaturday interview: Pages 10–11.

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