Hello and a warm welcome to Chichester’s Independents’ Month. This is the month when we celebrate the strength of our independents, when we are keen to develop a sense of community around our thriving independent sector.
In Chichester District we are both a haven and a hive for independent business activity. With some 14,500 registered self-employed, we are 26th in the country for the number of self-employed people and over 800 new businesses were created here last year. This April we were reported to be the 4th most resilient high street in the country a er Cambridge, Guildford and Bath and, among major shopping destinations, we have one of the highest ratios of independents to national stores. What’s more, in Chichester you shop in a city with 2,000 years of history and against one of the best preserved Georgian backdrops in the country, alongside those other UK originals: Bath, York and Chester.
At the last count, the Chichester BID area – which lies mostly just within the city walls – was occupied by a staggering 674 businesses. The national definition of an independent is a business with less than 6 total outlets or offices and this is the definition we use. By this criterion some 351 (52%) of all Chichester city centre businesses may legitimately be described as trading independents. A full 48% of these are independent outlets in retail or food and drink and a whopping 47% of all Chichester city centre retail is independent.
In Chi we know you will find over 100 of your favourite national brands – and we all need our anchor stores – but our 95 independent retail outlets (that’s 27% of our independent business sector) offer you a healthy 47% more alternative outlets to make up your total shopping experience.
Tired feet? Meeting friends? We can also offer you 57 (16%) independent cafés, tearooms and restaurants. Not enough of us look up as we walk around, but in Chi you will be well rewarded. If you’re looking to improve your health and well-being, change your lifestyle or learn a new skill then a full 183 (52%) of our independent service businesses are busy working out of the upstairs spaces! And we haven’t even begun to talk about the city’s cultural and heritage offer…
So this July, come into the city and take a good look around you. You might need to come more than once. Be daring and walk down Chichester’s famous twittens to seek our independent businesses out. With rent and rates the price they are, many of them are trading off the main streets although they are scattered across the whole city, even at the Cross. Just look out for the Independents’ Month sticker and the bunting, and if you see some do pop in. If you have a favourite indie then go in and tell them why. These are tough times for retailers and everyone appreciates getting feedback from their customers.
We all know how much pressure city centre businesses are under. The whole nation celebrates its independents businesses on 4th July but in Chichester you get an entire month and July is your chance to support your local independents. As we never tire of saying: use them or lose them!