Forward Thinking with John Forward, centre manager of Regent Arcade
WHETHER or not we have entered a double dip recession, all this doom and gloom is getting on my nerves! My own philosophy is to keep positive and focus on the forthcoming jubilee and the Olympics, which should help to create a 'feel-good' atmosphere.
The GDP figures took us all by surprise because there's a growing feeling certainly in the South West that tiny green shoots of recovery are appearing. I can't say I have seen many myself – although what I have observed is that those retailers and businesses in Cheltenham that have been proactive and are working really hard are seeing the benefits.
Footfall wise, it is impossible to compare the past four months with the same period last year because significant dates such as Easter and half term have fallen completely differently. Combine this with the fact that we had the Royal Wedding last year and the 2012 May bank holiday is being moved to June for the Jubilee and you can see how difficult it is to compare like with like. It won't be until after Father's Day that we will be able to make proper comparisons.
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I am really looking forward to the jubilee. As a nation we have a great deal to be proud about, and while I am not a staunch royalist, I think we can all learn a lot from the Queen and the way in which she has handled family trials and tribulations of recent years. She has had to change and adapt her approach – and her popularity is at an all time high as a result. We're having our own street party in the Regent Arcade and it's great to have a happy occasion we can all celebrate.
Some may say that the Olympics won't have much impact on Gloucestershire, but we have the honour of the torch being carried through Cheltenham, which in itself should create a bit of a buzz and attract people from surrounding areas into the town. Our retailers will benefit from the temporary suspension of Sunday trading laws as those who want to can stay open for longer during the Olympic period.
If retailers do their bit to keep the offer fresh and meet the needs of customers then it is only fair that shoppers should spend their money locally. I was shocked to learn that Amazon doesn't pay any UK taxes yet billions of pounds are being diverted away from the UK high street by online purchasing. Why not stay loyal to your High Street shops. If they give you friendly, efficient customer service, with the right products at the right price, why not reward them with your custom – don't go home and then purchase from an online competitor.
Let's enter into the community spirit of the jubilee and the Olympics by supporting our local high street. After all, there is some truth in the saying that, in the end: "If you don't use it, you'll lose it!"