INDEPENDENT stores in Salisbury are still suffering from the effects of the nerve agent attacks earlier this year, and need “more support than ever”, according to one shop owner.

Paul Smith, owner of Vinyl Collectors and Sellers in the Cross Keys Arcade, said his store’s income is down around 40 per cent on the same time last year.

Paul said: “We’ve lost tens of thousands of pounds, which has meant I have been unable to pull any money out of the shop at all since July.

“I’ve got regular customers that live outside Salisbury that I’m used to seeing weekly or monthly that are no longer coming [to the store], and that must be because they are scared to come here still.

“From January to May this year, sales were up by around 30 per cent on 2017, and everything was heading in the right direction.

“Since the second Novichok attack, when it wasn’t a targeted attack, from that day forward, trade has really suffered, and we are about 40 per cent down on the same period last year.”

The damage to Paul’s business has meant that he has had to return to his previous career in construction on a freelance basis in order to bring in an income, and he’s not the only one suffering, he adds.

“This has meant I’ve had to reduce opening hours, and go back to work in construction in order to contribute to my household.”

He added: “Speaking to a few other traders in town, I know they’re in a similar predicament to me, but wont have another career to fall back on.

“People of Salisbury need to realise they need to support the smaller shops now more than ever.

“I’ve lived in Salisbury my whole life and I have never seen so many empty shops.

“My fear is that the run up to Christmas will be affected. Last year we took 25 per cent of our entire yearly takings in December, and I can tell you now that will not happen this year.

“We have received kind help from the council but it has been a lengthy and stressful process and the funds [at the time of writing] have not been received.

“It’s going to be an uphill struggle but I am absolutely determined that my shop will still be here in some form next Christmas.”

“I’m getting £4000, and they’ve stopped my rates until the end of the tax year, and I’ve also been offered £2,000 worth of free business advice to try and see what we can do to get my business back on track, but “It isn’t near covering my losses, and hasn’t stopped me needing to doing other work”, he said.

“I don’t have an endless pot of money to throw at the shop. I am going to have to review things.

“I have a ‘disaster plan’ for the new year, which I fully expect to have to invoke.”

Schemes such as Black Friday, or Small Business Saturday did nothing to increase footfall for the store either.

Paul said: “We had a Black Friday sale, and then actually extended it for a whole week, and it didn’t make a difference to our sales at all.

“It didn’t improve football or sales one iota, and neither did Small Business Saturday (December 1).”

“I do have an action plan though, and I have been holding events to try and boost things.”

“I fully expect to see some stores shutting after Christmas. but mine definitely will not shut down, I have invested too much time and money for it to fail.”

This comes off the back of a report released on Tuesday (December 4) by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) that confirms Black Friday did little to lift the overall pace of spending, with sales growth in November falling to its lowest rate in seven months.

Helen Richardson, Chief Executive of BRC said in the report: “Weak consumer demand and falling confidence mean that retailers are in for a nerve-wracking run up to Christmas.

“Conditions in the industry have been particularly tough since the vote to leave the EU in 2016 and the current uncertainty has only compounded the challenges.

“Unless the UK can secure parliamentary agreement for a post-Brexit deal that ensures frictionless, tariff-free trade, consumers are likely to face higher prices and less choice.”