Published: 06:00, 01 February 2021
| Updated: 20:06, 01 February 2021
Herne Bay councillor Andrew Cook says town centres will inevitably change in the wake of Covid - with some businesses already deciding to go online-only.
Abi Calder and Barb Johnson, who own The Activity Box in the centre of the seaside town, said they would shut their store and run it as an online and mobile business if they fail to secure grant funding in the next two months.
And more businesses could fall prey to a coronavirus-induced drop-off in earnings and be replaced by restaurants and cafes, according to Cllr Cook.
He also says the town’s Conservative councillors are considering the merits of trying to “shorten” the High Street by encouraging bids to use closed-down shops for other purposes.
The senior Tory told KentOnline: “There will be casualties.
"The businesses that weren’t that strong beforehand or who can’t alter slightly to move forwards will struggle.
“It has been incredibly tough for everybody. I think the high street will change.
“It’s about making it a place to visit for food, leisure-type stuff and specialist shopping that you can’t do online, and hang on to the best of the shops we’ve got, which I’m sure will survive.
“And some might be turned back into residential with the shortening of high streets. This will be done in areas where you know people are struggling (for trade).”
Trade at the Activity Box has dropped significantly since it was forced to close as a result of virus restrictions in November.
It is still taking orders for pottery, painting and crafts kits over the phone, but its owners say what little they make is used to cover the bills for their William Street base.
“We are struggling - we’re not getting a wage,” Ms Calder explained.
"It’s a case where if people don’t use us, we’re going to have to leave the building.
“At this moment in time, it’s looking highly likely that we will close. We’re not ever going to go, but it might be that we won’t have a building in the Bay.”
She also says a number of other businesses in Herne Bay are struggling to make ends meet.
A Bundle of Books in Bank Street was one of the earliest casualties of the pandemic in the town when it closed down in September.
Rogers Menswear owner Tony Symons insists his store will be able to survive the pandemic - but he says the timing of the latest lockdown meant it was unable to receive a festive boost in earnings.
“We’re all in the same boat - everything’s just stopped,” he added. “Nobody knows when we’ll reopen. It’s rubbish.
“Of the shops that are still open in Herne Bay, if you’re a food shop it’s not mad, but you’re making a living.
“But some of the other shops that are still open are quiet because the town is quiet - it’s dead.”
Since this story was published, the owners of The Activity Box have negotiated a smaller rental fee for the premises. They say this means they will be able to stay on at the store.