Axminster remains strong in the face of the challenges on the planning and economic fronts, according to the traders’ group Totally Locally.
Launched only in July, the shopper loyalty initiative this week completed a month-long ‘Christmas Trail’ and believes the response it received from the local community on that and its previous ‘Fiver Fest’ provides ample evidence that both its potential and underlying spirit are very much intact.
“The town is certainly in need of support from Westminster to boost the town centre and unlock the wider Axminster Masterplan,” says Barrie Hedges, who has helped to pilot Totally Locally Axminster.
“But when you have such loyalty from the people who live here then you have some firm foundations on which to build. This town is very much alive!”
He added: “All the signs are that Trinity House will be restored to the local shopping scene within a few months. With that as an anchor, the commercial confidence in the town will surely flood back.”
Such was the demand for ‘Christmas Trail’ cards that the initial print run of 1,750 cards had to be increased. Councillors Ian Hall and Andrew Moulding this week drew four £50 voucher winners from the cards submitted by those who had gathered loyalty stamps each time they spent £10 with one of 43 participating traders.
Back in March, East Devon District Council made an unsuccessful bid for Axminster to receive a share of the Government’s £1 billion Future High Streets Fund. Even when in August it doubled the number of towns qualifying from 50 to 100, Axminster still remained ‘out in the cold’.
Support for Axminster from MP
Councillor Hall says he believes awareness of the need for consumers to support retailers is “hugely important for a sustainable and vibrant future for the town”. He added: “Neil Parish MP and I had further discussions just days before the General Election. He gave me an assurance that Axminster’s priorities will also be his priorities and will be ensuring that Axminster gets our share of the High Streets Fund.”
Councillor Sarah Jackson is an enthusiastic supporter of Totally Locally Axminster. “It has proven how retailers and service providers can pull together and help each other through a period of tricky transition,” she said.
“This engagement has perfectly demonstrated how valuable our high street still is and how passionate we, as a community are, about protecting it. I’m sure that if we continue to support our high street in this way, we will put it in the very best position to redefine its identity and thrive in the years to come.”
Totally Locally Axminster has also launched an initiative which has ensured that the windows of Trinity House do not remain empty following the closure of the previous department store.
Working in partnership with the Axminster Heritage Centre and Plastic Free Axminster, it has developed a range of posters to remind people what is great about the town. The posters also make the point that, through its history, the town has consistently been in transition.