Diss traders hope new group will boost footfall

Diss, Norfolk. Mere Street''Picture: MARK BULLIMORE PHOTOGRAPHY
Diss, Norfolk. Mere Street''Picture: MARK BULLIMORE PHOTOGRAPHY

A new traders’ group is in the early stages of formation to help promote business on a town centre street.

Mere Street Traders’ Group is intended to improve and highlight the experience for shoppers, and is supported by the town council, which is helping it get off the ground.

Six independent businesses attended a first meeting on January 22 at which issues such as signage, street cleaning, buskers, police presence and CCTV were discussed.

“I would encourage other traders to go along as, although it is early days, it does help focus the mind collectively on what issues need to be addressed,” said Sharon Loome, who runs Mere Moments cafe.

“Diss is now 15 to 20 percent bigger than it was 30 years ago, but there hasn’t been the same rise in the number of shoppers.

“Online shopping has had an adverse affect and it would be good to hear other traders’ views on how things can be improved.”

According to a survey carried out by the Heritage Triangle Trust, during the spring and summer of 2015, footfall was recorded as 280 in a 10-minute period outside Diss Publishing, compared with 26 in the same time period outside St Nicholas House Yard.

Work has now been completed on the Heritage Triangle following a £3.4 million cash injection by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Diss Town Council, South Norfolk Council and Norfolk County Council.

Traders have reported increases in footfall as a result.

Diss Town Council interim council leader Julian Mason said: “Like any first meeting, a lot of negatives were raised.

“But from these grew a lot of positives about what traders would like to see most.

“Mere Street has a mix of around 50 independent and chain stores and a key discussion was signage.

“If you drive along the A1066, passed Morrisons and Tesco, there is nothing currently to point people in the direction of the town shops.”

Traders in the Heritage Triangle have formed a similar group. It is hoped the two groups can work jointly in the future.

Birgitte Mager, who runs Diss Publishing, said: “With all of the money put into the Heritage Triangle, we need to avoid the town becoming disjointed.

“All of the traders in Mere Street are busy seven days a week, so we do not want to set up another committee for committee’s sake.

“However, a group set up to discuss issues that concern us all would be of great benefit.

“That way we can discuss ways in which we can help turn Mere Street into an even more positive shopping experience.

“You can get everything at the push of a button these days, so we need to think of ways to attract footfall.”

The next meeting will be in Diss Youth and Community Centre on February 26.