WITH a cost of living crisis hitting businesses just as people are getting used to life without widespread coronavirus restrictions, the near future looks to be yet another challenging period that owners have to adapt to. 

Speaking to town centre traders about their current concerns, the general consensus is that there needs to be an increase in financial support and investment, not only to support local businesses through this financial crisis but to encourage more into the area.

While the proposed regeneration of the town centre has been welcomed by Bradshawgate business owners, there was a sense of urgency for the investment to come sooner rather than later to prevent the closure of further high street businesses.

Additionally, there was a desire for local people and business owners to be involved in the decision-making process to ensure that the community has a say in what changes are going to made, while stricter policing measures were also called for to make the town centre a safer, more attractive place.

Leigh Journal: Businesses on Bradshawgate spoke of their concernsBusinesses on Bradshawgate spoke of their concerns

What businesses are saying:

The Lilac Lounge Cafe

Leigh Journal: Tina KaffieTina Kaffie

Although the Lilac Lounge are "very lucky" to have a loyal customer base, owner Tina Kaffie said that the coming months will be "survival of the fittest" for Bradshawgate businesses.

Just as things were beginning to resemble how they were before the pandemic, Tina said that increasing energy bills will "dramatically" impact the business.

Tina said: "It's going to be survival of the fittest around here. We are expecting a £500 hike in our monthly bills from now on.

"Where do I get an extra £125 a week from when a bru costs £1.25?

"We are a luxury for people to come out and spend their money, so I hope they understand why we will have to put our prices."

Tina explained that the Council and Leigh Means Business proposals for the town's regeneration sound "promising", but emphasised the need for local businesses to be able to have a say on what changes will be made.

Offering solutions to bring more people into the centre of Leigh, Tina suggested that a fully-pedestrianised "cafe culture" along Bradshawgate, increased policing and better advertising of the town centre may go some way in making the high street more attractive.

The Replenishery

Leigh Journal: Ian Morris and Olga SalajkovIan Morris and Olga Salajkov

With a regular base of returning customers who "care about the planet and sustainability", Leigh's zero waste, plastic-free shop on John Street has been keeping steady since the loosening of coronavirus restrictions.

However, the independent business is not immune from the geopolitical issues of rising energy bills and Brexit-related supply problems, and are expecting a difficult few months ahead.

Owners Ian Morris and Olga Salajkova said: "We are very lucky that we have such a regular customer base, because we are very small and hidden away from the high street."

"But with the increasing fuel prices and supply issues, this all affects a small business."

Describing it as "upsetting" to see businesses close down along Bradshawgate, Olga suggested that more incentives for start-up businesses and longer periods of free parking may encourage business owners to take up town centre premises.

Leigh Journal: The Replenishery on John StreetThe Replenishery on John Street

You Sweetie

Leigh Journal: David MurphyDavid Murphy

Describing trade as "inconsistent" in Leigh, David Murphy, owner of You Sweetie sweet shop, said that one of the main issues impacting his profits is the "relentless" anti-social behaviour and alcohol consumption on Bradshawgate.

David said: "Business is getting there, but it's still not like it was before the pandemic.

"The main issue we face is the amount of people who are drinking alcohol and verbally abusive to people who walk past.

"It is supposed to be an alcohol-free zone on Bradshawgate, but this happens almost every day from around 8am and it puts people off coming into the town."

Like other business owners in Leigh, David has been encouraged by regeneration plans in the town centre but felt that this investment "needs to happen now", with a clear plan on how to fill empty premises and bring more customers into the town.

Leigh Journal: You Sweetie on BradshawgateYou Sweetie on Bradshawgate

The Pictorium Gallery

Leigh Journal: The Pictorium Gallery on BradshawgateThe Pictorium Gallery on Bradshawgate

Although customers rushed back to Bradshawgate's picture framing and art gallery after the first lockdown in 2020, it has been difficult for the business to get people into the shop amid covid concerns and rising energy bills.

Worried about the longevity of the cost of living crisis, owner Peter Freeman said it is likely that the business will likely leave their premises once their lease runs out.

Peter said: "Business has been quiet and it is difficult to get people off the street in Leigh, but we are not a necessity - especially when people are deciding whether to spend money on fuel or food.

Like other business owners, Peter agreed that Leigh is in urgent need of regeneration, but suggested that years of underivestment has left the town centre to stagnate.

Peter added: "The council have not listened to businesses concerns about the town centre for years.

"There have been empty shops here for years, and the big supermarkets have taken all the footfall away from the markets and local businesses.

"We can secure money from trading at festivals and markets, but it's the young people and struggling families who I feel sorry for with all these hiked prices."

Leigh Journal: Inside the picture frame and art galleryInside the picture frame and art gallery

What the council have said: 

In response to Leigh business owners concerns, David Proctor, assistant director for growth and housing, said:

“We want Leigh to be a thriving town where people want to live, shop and spend their time and we welcome the engagement of the community in Leigh to achieve this vision.

“The council consulted extensively on the Leigh Town Centre Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF) which sets a flexible and robust vision for the town centre and will coordinate activity, shape development and guide investment.

“We’re currently preparing a bid to the government’s Levelling Up Fund which presents an opportunity to attract up to £20 million of funding to transform Leigh town centre and stimulate private sector investment.

“We’re already engaging with business groups and other stakeholders in the town centre as we develop this bid, and we’re committed to working with our partners, including local businesses and residents, to secure the best possible future for Leigh.”