A Happy New Year to you all

John Morse, President of GY Chamber Council

As we all know, it is the season of reflection and of new resolutions. We on the Great Yarmouth Chamber Council would like to take this opportunity to share our thoughts for 2013.

Firstly by way of reflection, in 2012 there were continuing issues of re-energising Great Yarmouth’s retail and business communities. Of particular note, as we were setting about our Christmas preparations, we were all confronted with the issues of two of the banks seeking approval to relocate from Hall Quay into the centre of the town. Sometimes vitriolic views were expressed in the Mercury, BBC Radio Norfolk, in the Council Chamber and elsewhere, as to the merits, or otherwise of this request. Suffice to say, those who were against the proposal won the day, although I doubt that will be the last we will hear on the issue.

The point however is, whichever side of the argument you choose to support, everybody has a shared interest and that is to see a vibrant town centre, devoid of empty shops and a general air of depression. In 2013, the Great Yarmouth Chamber Council will do everything it can to ensure this is achieved.

There is a continuing challenge to the retail sector and the truth is, it’s not going to get better for Great Yarmouth, or elsewhere, any time soon. You may have noticed that, in post-Christmas sales reports, nationally retail sales over the festive season rose by 1% when compared to 2012. However and more significantly, on-line sales rose by 18%. This coupled with the general malaise brought about by the recession, over and above Great Yarmouth’s own well publicised problems, means that is going to continue to be tough for the retail sector for a long time to come. I encourage you all to lend as much support as you can, by encouraging and patronising local businesses wherever possible.

Secondly and as a New Year resolution, I hope that we all become more optimistic and we will finally see some progress in attracting new business into the town, primarily as a result of the offshore renewable sector. With the recently announced decision to seek consents approval to develop and install the first phase of 325 turbines on the EAOW One development, we all hope to finally see significant inward investments both into the town and the port to support this project.

As reported in previous columns in the Mercury, the town continues to face significant challenges but assuming that in the short term, our future is only secured by a dualled Acle straight, or a third river crossing, despite recent and resurgent efforts to talk up these projects, will prove unrealistic. Our strategies must be based upon what we already have and not what may or may not happen in the future.

The future of Great Yarmouth is in our own hands. Here at the Great Yarmouth Chamber Council and for 2013, we will shortly be commencing our new initiative, our “Customer Care Programme”. We will be re-doubling our efforts to engage with all of the existing and hopefully expanded future membership, to better understand your business issues and offer support and guidance to help you maximise your potential. Our expectation is that more energised local companies will pull together, share your experiences and collectively improve business confidence in the town.

To plagiarise the famous Lord Kitchener poster: “Your Town Needs You” and as a call to action, representatives from your Chamber Council will be in contact with you shortly to help and to encourage you to grasp every opportunity that 2013 will bring.

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