‘Use us or lose us!’ That is the plea from two of Horncastle’s longest serving business owners amid concerns about the economic viability of the town.
Graham Perkins, who owns a town centre newsagent shop, and Keith Gosling, joint owner of A Church and Sons, revealed trading conditions were more difficult than ever.
They both claim a major problem is a significant decline in ‘footfall’.
They say free parking could help reverse the trend, but said the recent decision to close two banks was not a ‘great advert’ for the town.
Mr Perkins’ business has been in the family for 97 years and he has been the owner for the last 40.
However, he said he thought it was premature to label Horncastle as a ‘ghost town’ but admitted ‘things have to change’.
He said: “In 40 years, trading is probably the worst I’ve known.
“It’s very tough. We’ve been here almost 100 years but I’m not sure how much longer we’ll be about.
“I’m proud the business has been in my family for so long but I warned my son not to come into it. Fortunately, he saw sense and has another career.”
Mr Perkins accepted that it was particularly difficult for more traditional businesses .
He said there were some encouraging signs with new businesses starting up, while the town’s industrial estate on Boston Road was thriving.
He added: “The strange thing is there are fewer empty shops .
“But, a lot of them are charity shops - or estate agents. We need something to bring people in. Saturday afternoon - we might as well not open. There’s no one about.
“Free parking would help and it would also help if traffic wardens weren’t so predatory. They are driving people away.”
Mr Gosling said he shared Mr Perkins’ concerns. and added: “I’ve been here for 30 years and it is definitely the most testing conditions I’ve known”
“It’s worse than in the recession of the 80s. Everyone says the same.”
He revealed his hardware business was up for sale and added: “It’s not easy competing against the out-of-town outlets, but if people want a town centre they need to support businesses.
“Use us, or lose lose us.“