The main road between London and the South West used to run right through the three main towns in South Somerset.

That is one of the reasons that Chard, Crewkerne and Yeovil grew up the way they did, with the glowing ham stone shop fronts and hotels warmly welcoming the constant stream of travellers' arriving in the West Country.

Business has changed a lot though since the day those travellers might break their journey for a night with us, enjoy our legendary hospitality and have a leisurely browse of our shops.

The main road runs a different route, and tourism is still important but it is more focused on "destinations".

Luckily we have those in spades - including our towns - and I will certainly keep shouting about them from the roof tops.

But there is no doubt being a high street retailer is no longer just a case of setting out the stall and waiting for people to come by.

Our market towns need to market themselves as destinations too, and have the buzz that comes with use.

The challenge for our high streets is to be the "destinations" that visitors and residents alike want to keep coming back to.

To compete with the internet and the out of town large format shops, where choice and convenience is abundant, independent high street retailers have constantly to reinvent their unique selling points which will draw shoppers in, make sure the products they offer are really special, and entertain.

That's about more than a council just paying for the odd theatre troupe to be shipped in from outside to perform on the pavement, or a council employee having "responsibility".

We all know the shops and restaurants and pubs we just find fun to visit, which enrich our lives in more than just a functional way.

Think of those sparks of personal interaction that brighten your day and put a spring in your step.

That's the high street I want to feel.

Meeting with heads of the local Chambers of Commerce last week, I was convinced that our community is brimming with ideas that our councils are not always listening to.

I want to change that, and to champion the small business community that makes the fabric of our town centres what it is.

Big policy is one area I want to change, for example I want much deeper reform of business rates, so that small businesses don't start each year with a mountain to climb before getting into profit.

And we can do more to make sure there are innovative ways of business accessing finance for new ideas, and cut red tape much more.

Impersonal bank lending processes don't work too well for small business right now and seem designed to stifle creativity.

Confidence breeds confidence, and it is great to see examples of high street businesses taking these innovative steps and succeeding.

I will bring laser-like focus to continuing that process, take away obstacles and negativity that small business seems to get from some quarters, and let people's individual ideas and personalities shine.

Increasingly it is small businesses not large ones that are creating the new jobs in our economy which give people the security of a pay packet and the ambition to plan for their future and that of their family.

Things are thankfully starting to feel a bit better on that front, but we have to keep it going with sound national policy, and trust people with their ideas and energy, and their willingness to have a go which we should all appreciate and enjoy.

Contact Marcus: www.marcusfysh.org.uk


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