Following the closure of Clintons in Hastings earlier this year, town centre manager John Bownas has spoken out about retail conditions in the town.
Clintons closed the doors of its Priory Meadow store for the last time in March, claiming it had been unable to reach ‘suitable financial terms’ to renew its lease.
Two months later, easyCoffee based at 8 York Buildings shut its doors after two years of trading in the town.
But according to John Bownas, town centre manager, there was no reason to think Hastings might be in trouble.
He said: “Shops always open and close. We will never see a high street the same one year to the next.
“Hastings at the moment is about bang on the national average for vacancy rates – we are sat there in the middle.
“Priory Meadow has three or four vacancies at the moment, one those just announced its coming back into use.
“I’m fairly confident that the other vacant units are likely to get let very soon.
“But that’s not to say something else won’t close.”
Mr Bownas said it was a good sign that Debenhams had decided to keep its Hastings store open, despite plans to close 22 other stores nationwide – including several in the South East.
He dismissed the suggestion that increases in business rates could be a reason for shop closures in the town.
He said: “Businesses will always grumble about business rates. Everybody has that as a burden.”
High streets around the country were experiencing change, he said, with most noticing a rise in more experience-based businesses such as cafes, restaurants, bars and tanning salons.
“These are things you can’t buy online,” he said.
Overall when considering the retail environment in the town, he said: “Hastings is in that average space.
“It’s not bad, it’s not brilliant. There are better places, there are worse places.”