THERE are few who could argue that 2018 wasn't devastating for high street shops.

Competition from the internet and Brexit fears combined to keep people at home and led to the closure of thousands of stores across the UK.

Large town centres appeared to suffer the worst losses with empty units now commonplace.

But some smaller areas have managed to buck the trend and to continue to attract shoppers to both big name stores and small, local businesses.

Southbourne, Westbourne and Boscombe are three of those areas. So what's the secret of their success?

Although not immune to some store closures, these areas continue to attract replacements and have fewer of the depressing empty units dragging other areas down.

They all have a mix of big names such as Tesco Express, Sainsbury's Local, Marks and Spencer and Primark which operate alongside individual, quirky local businesses.

But it is their array of restaurants, bars, cafes and coffee bars which appear to set them aside from other areas.

They are spread out along the length of the shopping streets, meaning people who go there to socialise are automatically drawn to the shops as well.

So is this the way forward?

A walk around Westbourne reveals an impressive array of goods and services.

And shoppers appear to be keen to support their local businesses and keep away from the town centre.

There are more hairdressers, restaurants and clothing shops than anything else.

But the area also has a varied selection of outlets including estate agents, takeaways, betting shops, charity shops, furniture, food and coffee.

In contrast to the nearby Bournemouth and Poole town centres, Westbourne also offers a range of unique and interesting businesses ranging from a wine merchant and specialist delicatessen to a book store and old-fashioned pharmacy.

Bournemouth Echo:

Shopper Joyce Keeping, who lives in Alum Chine, said: "I love shopping here because it's convenient and has everything I need.

"Some of the shops are a little more expensive than the chain stores you find in bigger areas but it's worth paying a bit extra to keep them here."

And David Roberts from Parkstone added: "I do most of my shopping here. I would only go into the town centre if I was going to the cinema or the theatre - there are no shops there that interest me.

"I enjoy spending a morning here looking at all the interesting shop displays and stopping for a coffee and a cake."

Southbourne Grove also has a wide range of outlets and an ever-increasing number of restaurants, bars, takeaways and coffee shops.

Bournemouth Echo:

Gift shops stock an array of unusual crafts, there's a traditional bakery and greengrocer and a range of services from estate agents to opticians and accountants.

And few high streets have specialist shops selling sewing machines or shutters.

All three areas come under the umbrella of the Coastal BID (Business Improvement District) which says so-called placemaking is key to their success.

Placemaking is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.

A spokesman said: "Our coastal areas like Southbourne, Westbourne, and Boscombe continue to buck national trends. Key to this is placemaking. We support our businesses by offering high-quality experiences which attract visitors, encourage them to explore what the high streets have to offer, and showcase their individual identities.

Bournemouth Echo:

"Southbourne, Westbourne and Boscombe all have their own unique range of cafés, restaurants and shops. From small boutique businesses, established local franchises to national high street names – there’s something for everyone.

"Events like Southbourne’s Shake & Stir Festival, Westbourne’s Victorian Christmas and Boscombe’s Motors By The Sea help attract thousands of visitors. However, it’s not enough to just put on a great event.

Bournemouth Echo:

"We work closely with our businesses to coordinate a cohesive approach so through offers and promotions during these occasions, we encourage visitors to return and spend on the high street."

Gordon Fong set up the SoBo Facebook group and promotes the #SoBoMile of food and drink businesses on social media. His activity includes video interviews with food and drink businesses.

He says the area is on the up, with Cliff House Hotel reopening recently.

"As a high street it’s doing as well as it can be and I think some of the strength is in the established businesses. It has a lively selection."

The local support for community events like Shake and Stir and Frankenfest have also made Southbourne a destination for people coming from outside, said Mr Fong..

He said he would like to see the same mix of social media and events tried in other areas, like Charminster and Winton.

"There are people who tap away at keyboards and there are people who step out and do something and make a positive contribution."

All three areas work closely with Bournemouth council and volunteers to keep the streets clean and attractive and mixed reality experiences, combining digital and physical, have proved successful in the last couple of years.

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