Poole's millionaires fail to save town from recession

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The Independent Online

Life in Poole is not all about the millionaires' mansions of Sandbanks and the luxury yachts that line the marina, it seems, with the Dorset coastal town faring worse for business closures than anywhere else in Britain.

Seaside towns have been hit particularly hard by the recession, with four of the five places to have lost the most local traders being traditional beachside destinations.

Poole lost 23.7 businesses per 10,000 residents in 2009, according to research released today. That put it alongside Southend-on-Sea, Blackpool and Preston in the survey's top five for business failures, with Bolton completing the list.

With all the talk of people "staycationing" by taking their holidays in Britain rather than abroad in recent years, it will surprise many tourists to discover how badly Poole has been suffering. With plenty of cafés and restaurants, ferries offering daytrips to Brownsea Island and an attractive harbour front, it is nothing like the rundown image that has attached itself to other seaside haunts.

Residents are less surprised, however. Wayne Hopkins, the owner of the independent music shop Red Rocks Records, said that although the town is beginning to recover now, it was badly affected by the credit crunch when the major local employer Barclays made severe job cuts, and that has had a knock-on effect for other businesses there.

"I've lost 15 or 20 regular customers since Barclays made their cuts, because they were laid off and moved to different towns. It certainly has an effect on the cafés and sandwich bars too, because all of a sudden you've got 500 or so less people coming into the town at lunchtime," he said.

"The secondhand bookshop next door, Castle Books, is closing soon, and there is talk of Waterstones and HMV going as well."

Marc Waterman, a partner at the accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young, which carried out the survey, said: "Despite the hopeful idea of the 'staycation,' the British tourist industry did not do well from the recession.

"Any bounce from the staycation was wiped out by the cancellation of business conferences, exhibitions and seminars that seaside towns would normally do very well from. Businesses, like consumers, reigned in discretionary spending during the recession and those seaside towns who relied on their business suffered."