As many as 80 Harrogate businesses are taking action in their own hands to combat the challenges to the high street sector by setting up their own 'Independent Harrogate' group.
Frustrated by what they say is the toll of empty shops and high costs of operating in Harrogate town centre, the new group will work to create initiatives which will "boost footfall and make the town more attractive and convenient."
Describing themselves as a new "powerful independent collective voice," organisers of Independent Harrogate issued an open letter today to explain what the aims of this new group for retailers, cafés and restaurants are.
Signed by Robert Ogden and Ben Ogden FGA (Ogden of Harrogate), William Woods (Woods Fine Linens), Christopher Butterworth (former Raworths LLP) and over 80 business members of Independent Harrogate, the letter says:
"For generations Harrogate has been famous for its independent shopping but that is now under threat.
"We know that the unfair ratings system needs to be updated by central government and the rise of online shopping changes the convenience landscape, but there remains much that we can do to attract visitors to our beautiful town and its businesses.
"We have now formed a powerful independent collective voice, Independent Harrogate, with the aim of championing the best independents of Harrogate, understanding their challenges and supporting them.
"Harrogate is renowned for a brilliant, vibrant range of independent businesses, and it is one of the main reasons people cite for visiting the town.
"The likes of Adage Dance, Arkwrights Hardware, Bass & Bligh, Bijouled, GA Taylor, G23/Porters, H2K Skincare, Helen James Flowers, Imagined Things, Maturi Bag & Baggage, Morgan Clare, Milk & Honey, Ogdens of Harrogate, Stephen Neall Group, Tennants Auctioneers, Walker Galleries, Weetons, Whites, Woods Fine Linens, Yorkshire Farmers Meat Company and more than 60 more distinguished businesses are on board so far!
"We are now also supported by (BIRA) British Independent Retail Association, representing 7000 similar businesses nationwide.
"We share a collective interest in initiatives which will boost footfall and make our town more attractive and convenient, and would also like to work closely with existing organisations including Visit Harrogate and the Harrogate BID.
"Our principal aims are: "To lobby central government for a fairer ratings system through BIRA. "To enlist support from BIRA and our members to influence some joined-up thinking by NYCC and HBC and discourage initiatives that have negative effects on town centre trading conditions e.g. high parking charges, vagrancy and tired streets. "To work with Harrogate BID and encourage them to be truly representative of their levy payers by including independent retail businesses on their board. "To increase footfall to our shops, cafés and restaurants - it's our lifeblood. "To work with other organisations and government to ensure there is a fairer playing field where both 'online only' businesses and bricks and mortar businesses can co-exist without one disadvantaging the other.
"Above all we want Harrogate to be different, vibrant and highly successful! We are at the heart of your town and online at independentharrogate.org"