BUSINESSES in Chard have faced such a drastic loss of customers since the town’s Lidl car park closed on Boden Street that some could be forced to shut in the next few months.

Among those worst affected by the loss of footfall are shops on Howards Row.

And business owners fear the situation will only get worse as the old Boden Street supermarket plans to block off the disused car park with a 2.4m high wooden barrier for the next 18 months.

This will force elderly customers to walk around, but also block the shops from view of Boden Street bus users and people walking from Holyrood Street.

One of the Howards Row businesses, Sweet and Vape, has seen an 85 per cent reduction in business since the Lidl car park closed.

Rachel Mitchell, one of the shop’s owners, said: “We aren’t getting any foot traffic.

“We would be taking in the region of £300 to £400 a day. That was two weeks before it closed, and now we are down to £60 a day.”

Partner Darren Mitchell said if the situation doesn’t improve, they would have to close the shop in three months.

He added: “If it looks like change is coming then we would do everything we can to hang on, but they are talking about having the boarding up for 18 months.”

Rachel said: “Of course we will try to adapt if we can, and we have managed over the last three years, but if there is nothing on the horizon then it is worrying.”

The shop was initially launched in 2016 as Kenny’s Kandy, with the name changing to Vape and Sweet earlier this year and the shop adding CDB products.

CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from the cannabis plant but does not contain the psychoactive ingredient THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

It is legal and often used for pain relief, with Rachel using it to help with her fibromyalgia.

Rachel said: “We are not interested in big profit making. We have always been about trying to help people.

“The shop was never to start vaping, it was always help people stop smoking.

“I can’t have sugar either, so when we did sweets we also had sugar free options.

“Some of our CBD customers weren’t getting out of the house, and now they can’t park at Lidl, do their weekly shop and get to us, we don’t see them.

“They are probably not getting out anymore.”

Ian Hilton Barratt owns a barbers in Howards Row, and said he may have to let staff go if they can’t keep up trade.

He added: “We have noticed there is a lot less footfall.

“If we could get something down the end, either a sandwich board or a sign, just to say what is down here then that could help.

“I think the whole town is going to suffer from the fact that the car park is closed.”

Kerry Hooper-Cross took over Styles hairdressers in February, with the salon being based in Howards Row for nearly 25 years.

She said: “There has definitely been a drop in footfall. Hardly anybody walks past anymore.

“Our main concern is the plans to put wooden fencing around the Lidl car park.

“We have a lot of clients who live in the town houses, and they are elderly people that will have to go all the way around.

“They will have to walk so much further, and have to pass other hairdressers.”

Kerry also employs four local people.

She added: “It is not good for our town. We weren’t even told they were shutting the car park.

“The fencing cannot be up for 18 months. That is a lot of time, and by the end, Howards Row could be all empty.”

Jason Baker, mayor of Chard, said he is trying to work with Lidl and the district council to have the car park reopened, at least for winter.

He added: “The footfall in the town is ridiculously down.

“If they put boards around then it is just going to be an eyesore.”