Town centre businessman shares his ideas for turning the resort's fortunes around
A SOUTHPORT optician, fed up with negative views of the town, says he can see a clear way forward to help the resort prosper.
David Myers, who has five opticians franchises in the North West including one on London Street, was disheartened to read in the Champion about the number of empty shop units in the town, and contacted us with his own ideas on how Southport could combat the ever-increasing closures.
He told the Champion: “I have some really good ideas for the future of the town, building it up and helping it to prosper.
“For instance, I’d like to see the town transformed into specific areas - the southern end of Lord Street could concentrate on providing accommodation as and when shops close, so making the shopping section which remains in the town more in-demand and raise the quality of the stores.
“The other end of Lord Street - the so-called Northern Quarter - could continue to focus more on the entertainment side, giving it its own identity and appeal.
“Some of the town’s shopping arcades could be rented out at a lower rate for arts and antiques businesses, which would make them more quirky. We need to concentrate on building up the small independents and we need to support them better -why go to Starbucks or Costa and give them your money when you could support the Southport Market traders, for example, instead?
“Ideally, it would be perfect to turn the rail station car park into a multi-storey to help with parking and attract more people to the town.
“Also, the former BHS building could be turned into a hotel, as that really is an eyesore at present.
“No matter how much people focus on empty shops or trade not being as high as it used to be – we have to be realistic. Post-recession and in the middle of ever-increasing online trading sales, we know that the ‘glory days’ of the all-encompassing high street are over.
“But, it still offers people the ‘experience’ – they still want to see what they are buying, walk along the shopping streets with family or friends, stop for a coffee, go out for lunch – things you will never get from shopping on Amazon!
“We need to focus on the town centre and make it a perfect mixture to offer the best experience possible.
“Southport and Lytham St Anne's, where we also trade are both seaside towns but Lytham St Anne’s is blooming and that just goes to show that Southport can be revived.
“I have faith and so do others. You only need to see how much businessman Mike Ashley has spent on the former Waitrose store to turn it into Sports Direct, and how much Andrew Mikhail, owner of the Bold Hotel, the Lord Street Hotel and Punch Tarmeys bar, all in the Northern Quarter, have spent here to see how much faith they have in the town.
“Southport’s villages – Birkdale, Churchtown, Ainsdale – are absolutely thriving and doing so well. We just need to see the same perfect mix replicated on a larger scale in the town centre. The demand is so clearly there.
“But we need to play to the town’s strengths. You can reach three of the UK’s best golf courses within an hour from staying here, with Royal Birkdale right on our doorstep and that surely must be one of our most unique selling points!
“We should also bring in the national business angels scheme as well, where owners of successful businesses share their tips and ideas in help-sessions for start-ups who are just getting going.
“I’d love to help with exactly that kind of scheme so if anyone else would like to help me, or would like my help, please call me on 01704 546363.”