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News| Brexit Retailers hopeful after Brexit

WITHrecentwetweather already thought to have dampened shoppers’ enthusiasm, retailers have been bracing themselves for the feared fall-out from the referendum vote to leave Europe. But Maidstone’s independent re-

tailers say it’s business as usual on the post-Brexit frontline, with the initial shock leading to new opti- mism.

Philippa Cheasman, who runs

an upholstery firm in Market Buildings, is looking forward to the new benefits that she believes Brexit could bring for business everywhere. She said: “We have been here for

eight years and have always had work. Post-Brexit I am very opti- mistic. In the short term, we have plenty of work and I teach six up- holstery classes which are all full. We have just taken on a nice order for furniture on the Isle of Shep- pey.

“Brexit is something that, I think

in the long run, is going to be good for all of us. If prices level out so that people haven’t got to compete against them, hopefully our manu- facturing industries will benefit, because that is what we need in this country.” For school outfitter Sam Page, business is booming as parents buy uniforms for their children in the run-up to the new school year in September. But Sam, who also sells dance and workwear at her shop in Pudding Lane, does not believe that it will be affected by any po- tential post-Brexit downturn in consumer confidence. “We started supplying uniforms to 11 schools and now we have 30,

Atmosphere ‘is positive’

look after their customers. “We can’t just wait for the shop door to open.”

Ilsa Butler from the town centre partnership One Maidstone, said: “It seems that the general view is that retail businesses don’t expect to be affected at this stage, given that the EU exit

It’s business as usual in Gabriel’s Hill in Maidstone

“I think Brexit in the long run is going to be good for all of us” Philippa Cheasman, upholsterer

including some in Ashford,” she said. “The business has gone from strength to strength and this year I have had to take on lots more staff for the summer and hire units to store the stock in. We are doing better than ever and I can’t see how that could be affected.” Hi-fi specialist Simon Burton,

who owns Home Media Ltd, in Union Street, voted to stay in the EU. He says it is too early to tell how retail will be affected after austerity brought several years of challenging trading conditions, but is concerned for Europeans living

“After the initial shock factor, people are geing used to it now” Simon Burton, owner Home Media

and working in this country. “I personally know a few Euro-

peans and there is a lot of worry for the future,” he said. “I think it’s almost business as usual now. After the initial shock factor, peo- ple are getting used to it now.” However, he feels that any post-

Brexit feelgood factor is going to be long term. He added: “It’s going to be a slow process – it’s not going to turn around overnight, but there’s a degree of positivity if interest rates come down.” Kevin Blake runs Bang and Olufsen in the Royal Star Arcade with his brother, Paul, as well as four more branches in the South East, all specialising in high-end TVs and electronics. Kevin voted for Remain, and says that Brexit is just one of many factors that have dented high street shopping.

Ilsa Butler

negotiations are still to take place.

“Once they are concluded, it will be

interesting to see if there are developments in terms of import costs and to monitor the position of the pound.”

The Chamber of Commerce in Maidstone says there is a positive atmosphere about the town’s

businesses. The

chamber’s Roger Keech said: “I think it’s a case of keep calm and carry on making the most of opportunities. I don’t think everyone expected the Brexit vote to go through but now it has, everybody is trying to be optimistic. “It’s absolutely business as usual forMaidstone.”

Roger Keech said that retailers have to rally

Book shop ‘looking for a miracle’

SHOP owner Phillippa Hoad says Brexit has made no differ- ence to her business, Little Mouse Books in Market Buildings. But, sadly, she will be shutting

Store’s new look

THE Golden Boot shoe shop in Gabriels’ Hill has invested in Maid- stone’s future by expanding the women’s department and a makeover of the whole store. Established in 1790, the shop sells high-end footwear and bags. Owner Ed Martin said: “The feedback has been very positive from our customers both on the re- brand and the launch of the new women’s shop.”

10 Malling August 2016

up shop in October when her lease is due for renewal. “I will be here until September,

then I will be closing down un- less there is something short of a miracle,” she said. “I have some really good, loyal customers but this is the wrong location for this sort of business. Philippa ploughed her savings

into the shop when she launched it three years ago, but can no longer afford the lease. She said: “I just don’t think this is the right place for this sort of business.”

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