TRADERS in Devizes have opened up about their thoughts on the future of the town's high street as two stores housing former big name businesses are put up for sale.

Wilko's High Street branch shut in September after the retailer entered administration, with the store now back on the market, while Clarks shop at The Brittox, which closed in early March, is also for let. 

Businesses have said what they would like to see take over the sites, while raising their concerns of the factors negatively impacting trade at the moment, including Devizes' parking charges, reduced footfall on the high street, and online shopping reducing trade.

Louise Collins, who runs family run catering business Happy Food Company on Long Street, added: "It is nice to see independent shops in the town but there could be more fruit and vegetables and meat places.

"I have heard rents for shops are really high, so that makes it harder for independents to thrive - and that is why charity shops and barbers are able to keep going."

Philip O'Shea, the owner of The Peppermill Town House Hotel Restaurant and Wine Bar in St John's Street, believes the coronavirus pandemic and the cost of living crisis have hurt high streets in the town and nationwide.

"I think it is very sad to see shops close. Devizes is a lovely place but you don't see as many closures in Marlborough or Cirencester," he said.

"I heard that Clarks closed; the building looks dreadful and derelict. 

"Since Covid-19, I would say it [the high street] has not been as busy. The cost of living crisis is a big reason, too. Going out is a luxury. I believe business rates are quite high in Devizes but Amazon has probably killed the high street as well - not just here but across the country."

Bob Gilmour of Hen House The Gallery, in Wine Street, felt that while independents are still going strong in the town, parking fees are a big reason why footfall in the area was down. 

"I think Devizes is fortunate it doesn't have many empty units for long, and there are lots of independent shops, but all the traders here say footfall is down," he said.

"But the bigger picture is the high street is pretty tolerant and there are exciting shops here. People like to come to our shop for the service we provide - you can't get that online. 

"However, one thing that everyone talks about is parking. Every shop spends money to get people to come here but to essentially tax people to visit us seems counterproductive."

The landlady of the White Bear pub in Market Street, Georgina Fleming, admits they have had to cut back on their offering due to a drop-off in business.

"It is a shame lots of shops are closing. We shut on a Monday because of a lack of trade and we close early on a Sunday evening," she said.

"We have had to reduce our kitchen hours between Thursday to Sunday. It is a shame we cannot be open 24/7 and sometimes finding staff is a nightmare."

Incidentally, the vacant unit where Clarks was has been stripped internally and is being marketed as available to let for rental offers in the region of £37,000.