A TRADERS’ association which aims to pool its members’ talents is said to be thriving along with its high street.
Leading members of Southbourne On Sea Business Association say the community has come together to promote the area’s interests. Sam Acton, who recently took over as chair of the association, said the association was already in good shape – thanks to four years of hard work by previous chair Heather Martyn.
But it had become “too big for one person” and members backed a new structure to better share members’ expertise. “It’s enabled us to achieve a lot more because we can use people’s expertise more effectively,” she said.
The association’s management team is split into several areas: communication; community and events; strategy; finance; and council representation. Members take responsibility for the way Southbourne and Tuckton present themselves. Barbara Clark, of Matthew and Matthews, organises flower displays, while Heather Drayton from Marjorie Daw waters them at 7am daily. Nigel Taylor, of Harlequins, checks for graffiti and litter in the morning.“We’re keen to inspire each other,” says Carlie O’Neill, of Tanner & Tilley, who leads on communications.“There are members who are very quiet but do their bit. They’re available to Southbourne. That’s why we are maybe more successful than some other trading networks, because we use all our strengths.”
A Southbourne councillor, Chris Mayne, is among the management team. “When we had a graffiti outbreak, Chris Mayne got right onto it,” said Carlie. “There was absolute outrage. We had a clean-up operation like nothing you’ve ever seen.”
Facebook and Twitter are used to keep members informed, but also ensure that the wider community is involved. “For me, it’s also about benefiting the Southbourne community. “It’s a great family because we’ve got a lot of independent traders and also a lot of community groups and church groups,” said Sam Acton. “We’ve so privileged to live here.”
Tangible benefits from membership include free networking events and access to help and advice. The association’s links with Bournemouth Chamber also mean members can help influence the Local Government Association. While the association flourishes, Southbourne Grove has very few empty shop units. And the arrival of national names such as Costa – hotly protested in some other areas – has brought some benefits. “Contrary to everybody’s opinion that it would take business away from the independent cafes, it’s increased footfall and more money is going into local cafes,” said Sam.
“But we are all in agreement that we don’t want Southbourne to become a street of national names. “We still want that independence.” She said the traders’ collective attitude was making a real difference to people’s business prospects. “Positive people attract positive people. “It’s about chemistry,” she said. “There are businesses that are up and coming because they’re tapping into a positive energy and the experience and the knowledge that we’ve got to share.”