South Fylde towns are leading a revival on the high street, according to business groups from across the borough.
As towns up and down the country continue to struggle with a series of empty shop units, St Annes, Lytham and Kirkham have kept unused units down to single figures.
Following the opening of St Annes’ first fruit and vegetable shop in years, a new cafe and an interior design shop, a Moroccan takeaway and a Greek restaurant will open in the coming weeks and months.
And, across St Annes Road West, Garden Street, Orchard Road, Park Road and the Crescent, only six empty shop units remain out of around 150, a four per cent vacancy rate. According to statistics, the national vacancy rate is nearer 15 per cent, with Blackburn the highest at 26 per cent.
St Annes Chamber of Trade chairman John Moxham said the town is on the up – and among the best in the region.
He added: “I have to travel to Burnley and Accrington quite a bit, and there is no comparison. There is a certain desire for traders to come and start up new business here.
“We have a thriving cafe and restaurant quarter and a real mix of retail – we even have our own department store in JR Taylor’s. To be fair to the town council, a lot of effort and money has been put into the town. We are beginning to see the fruits of that.”
Mr Moxham said the mix of shops, which includes charity units, cafes, restaurants and national chains such as Tesco and Aldi, was further evidence of the growth of the town.
Traders, including Cezary Glowacki, 46, owner of Fresh and Fruity on the Crescent, with business partner Pawel Szymczak, 31, said: “We looked around this area and saw there was no shop of this type in St Annes. It has gone OK so far – we only opened last week. We are quite hopeful of being here a long time.”
Owner of St Annes Music, Guy Pople, 43, added: “I think there is a mood in town that people are thinking we have to have a go while options exist.
“In the last few months there has been a growth. A few years ago, last year in particular, you couldn’t say that.
“I like living here and significant investment has gone into the town.”
In Lytham, chairman of the business partnership, Andrew Fallow, said empty units were under 10 and revealed independent traders are regularly enquiring about moving to the area.
He added: “We have been bucking the trend for a while in Lytham. We had a lot of empty shops a few years ago, but we are well down in single figures now.
“Part of it is we are an affluent area.
“The economy is picking up too.
“We have had an increase in charity shops, but independent traders are interested too. It is nice people want to come here. We are known for our independent shops and that is how we want to keep it.”
In Kirkham, the high street has just one empty unit, owing to a fire at a chip shop earlier this year.
Town Coun Liz Oades said: “We have bucked the trend in a recession.
“We are not having any problems. It is testament to the work of the business group and council.
“Recently a butchers opened and a greengrocers last year. It shows how good the high street is in Kirkham.”