Uckfield Chamber of Commerce is looking ahead and planning for the future.
The business organisation’s bi-monthly meetings are already popular networking sessions and it successfully co-ordinates events such as late night shopping each year and business awards every other year.
President Bernard Smith, who was elected in November, said the Chamber’s work to promote the town had been extended this year as it helped to fund street entertainment to keep shoppers coming into town during the roadworks.
And he said closer relationships were being built with other agencies such as all three councils involved in town centre improvements – town, district and county – and neighbouring Chambers of Commerce.
Mr Smith said: “We are moving away from just being an organisation predominantly focussing on the idea of networking which is extremely important but doesn’t define who we are.
“We need to be a little bit more proactive in promoting the town and I am really keen to be leading the way in that regard.”
Mr Smith said late night shopping was a great example of how that could work. There had always been a partnership between Chamber and non-Chamber members and committee members came from both camps.
This relationship was being replicated in a bid to mitigate the effects of roadworks and to add to the discussion to find solutions to the problems faced by retailers while the work went on.
Because of his involvement with the Chamber his own company Oldfield Smith & Co had worked successfully, without charge, to achieve a rates reduction for retailers. Oldfield Smith was also making efforts to reduce rates in Hailsham where retailers faced similar issues.
Mr Smith was pleased to see initial negative comments on social media about Uckfield improvements gradually being replaced by positive ones as the results of work were being seen.
“And people are appreciating that local retailers are suffering and are showing loyalty by shopping in town.”
The results of recent polls conducted on Facebook were interesting, he added. When people were asked what they would like to see in town answers included large clothes shops and national chains but when asked about their favourite shops the most popular of all were small independents.
“Big names we have in town didn’t feature on the list at all which shows the difference between what people might think about their aspirations and what they go and do.
“The reality is that there is a lot of love out there for small independents. We should be proud of what we have in Uckfield, including a very good range of specialist shops.”
Mr Smith said he would like to see more variety and he believed that was coming. There were few empty shops and the turnover of tenants wasn’t enormous. “This is a growing town and as it grows it will attract more businesses in which will grow with it.”
• The next meeting of Uckfield Chamber of Commerce takes place on July 26 at Crockstead Farm Hotel when there will be a barbecue. Business people interested in going along are invited to contact Chamber secretary Ian Blackaller on 01825 722607 or by email at email@example.com.
• Nominations are currently being sought for the 2016 business awards with categories ranging from retailer of the rear to restaurant, hospitality and leisure, and from tradesperson of the year to best new business. Find more information on the awards website.
Find local businesses in our Uckfield Directory