TOWN centre shoppers are dwindling in Droitwich but it’s not down to the regeneration works, which saw the High Street closed for months, said a fabric shop manager.

Izzy Wizzy Sweetiz shutdown over Christmas with owner Nicky Roberts putting much of the blame on the county council’s revamp, which she said caused a footfall decline which never recovered.

The £650,000 scheme, which included road resurfacing, was started in June 2017 and, following delays, not completed until that November, officially re-opening the following month.

It was done in partnership with Wychavon District Council, while Severn Trent were also involved.

However, Sam Broadway, of Emm’s Haberdashery, said while trade on the town’s High Street has struggled, “it’s everywhere, not just Droitwich”.

“I think it’s fallen at the right time, so we can blame it on that, but it’s not just the closure,” he said.

Mr Broadway went on to say it’s simply “the way of the world” and businesses have got to adapt to the changing times, particularly with the online revolution.

“It’s the whole online thing,” he said. “This Christmas, I bought everything online – I wouldn’t say we’re struggling because of that [the revamp work]. The resurfacing needed to be done.

“It’s the way of the world, we can’t stop it and you’ve got to adapt. We’re moving more online ourselves.

“We do alterations, like wedding alterations – things you can’t get online. To survive long-term, you have to find that niche that can’t be done solely online,” he said.

Mr Broadway does, however, believe that the councils should be doing more to help promote businesses on the High Street.

“There’s no support for anybody at all. They should be promoting our town and our High Street, but they’re not.

“There are empty shops which are rundown,” he added.

A business owner, who did not wish to be named, agreed that more should be done to encourage business growth on the High Street, including filling the empty premises.

“As a small local town, we do get visitors, but people tend to think everything is up at the shopping centre,” she said.

She’s been running her business since 2006 and said the lack of council support isn’t a new thing, however.

“There is no interest in local towns and their small businesses and there hasn’t been for years,” she said.

She also agreed with Mr Broadway that the delayed works did have an “impact on footfall” which is still felt a year later, but said she was kept going by her “regular clientele”.

“At the time of the resurfacing people were reluctant to come to the High Street, but they’re slowly coming back,” she said.

“If you’re a High Street business who relies on passing traffic then you will suffer.”

Phil Merrick, head of economy and environment on Wychavon District Council, said: “It is always sad when a local retailer closes down. Nationally we know the High Street is going through a very challenging time due to changing consumer habits, particularly the rise of online shopping.

"We know the future of the High Street is going to be less focused on retailing and more about leisure experiences.

"In that sense Droitwich is well placed due to the large number of independent businesses,  the varied festival and events programme in the town which Wychavon actively promotes and supports and attractions like the Lido and our award-winning parks.

“Overall vacancy rates in the town are below the national average and in a survey we carried out of Droitwich retail businesses last year 84 per cent expect to see their turnover go up or stay the same in 2019.

"There is always more to do though and as a council we are actively considering proposals to bid for a share of the Government’s £675million Future High Street Fund to help meet some of the future challenges facing our town centres.”

Referring to the revamp, Councillor Ken Pollock, county council cabinet member for economy and infrastructure, said: “We appreciate that disruption was caused to local businesses, but we worked closely with partners to provide support.

He said this included discounted parking, 'business as usual' signs and other advertising.