Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Lisa and Graham served on the executive committee of the Chamber of Commerce from 2000 to 2017

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Costa Coffee in Melksham - is it a good idea?

Originally written, 13:00 on 22nd Feb. Updated / minor corrections that evening.
Additional comments added to answer feedback - 11:20, 23rd Feb. See base of article




I love Melksham - it's a town of friendly people who welcomed us when we moved here in 1999, and in turn I try to give a warm welcome to others who wish to move to the town - especially when they want to bring business here, boost the local economy, and provide something which means that more people find what they want in Melksham rather than having to go elsewhere for it. So I would welcome a business that's looking to set up a Coffee Shop in the town that's open from early in the morning until the evening. We've plenty of cafes where you can get a sandwich and a cup of coffee at lunchtime, but the same can't be said if you're looking for somewhere before work, after work when you want to meet up with friends, for a freshly brewed coffee and a muffin. And that current gap means that people don't dally in the town - they rush through giving other shops scant attention, or perhaps they don't go to Melksham Town Centre at all, but rather shop elsewhere.

An operator has applied to open a Costa Coffee franchise. Excellent.
• The location is a good central one with plenty of potential passing trade, so it should thrive.
• It will make the town more attractive by filling sad-looking empty units.
• It will encourage town centre visitors, to the benefit of other shopkeepers too.
• It will provide a facility not currently offered (overlap is slight).

The application was discussed at the recent Chamber of Commerce meeting, and here's what I'm submitting into the planning process as a result of that meeting:

This application was discussed at the Melksham Chamber of Commerce meeting on 12th February 2013. Meetings are open all businesses are encouraged to attend - whether Chamber members or not - without charge. Everyone who spoke during the discussion was in favour of welcoming the Costa Coffee franchise as proposed. Further, no chamber members who missed that meeting has made any representation to the officers of the Chamber to object to the proposal any way. In summary - the Chamber of Commerce is fully in support of the application and this submission registers that support officially. .

Although there are numerous cafes, pubs, and takeaways in Melksham, it currently lacks an unlicensed "coffee shop". There are plenty of places to get lunch or a sandwich, but anyone arriving in Melksham early in the day, or in the town between mid afternoon and the early evening, will be hard pressed to find any establishment which is open for a coffee and a cake, to meet with friends, and to check email in a relaxed, non-alcoholic environment.

The location proposed is a good central one, and this coffee shop will encourage people into the town centre by filling gaps mentioned above, to the benefit of the other businesses in the town, and thus to the benefit of the town as a whole.


It's important, of course, for me to get my facts right in submitting this to planning - to make sure that I don't overlook one of our members, or indeed another business, who may be adversely effected. So yesterday, as I arrived on the bus from Chippenham, just after half past three, I got off at the bottom of the town and walked through. I could have gone into The Bear for a coffee. Ashers was shut, with the security grill down. The Old Bakery had a "closed" sign on the door. The Art House had "closed" up in lights. I could probably have gone into The King's Arms for a coffee - I'm not sure if they're open all afternoon. Had either of the two cafes nearby the proposed site (Asher's and the Old Bakery) actually been open, I would be sympathetic with any concerns they have - but Costa Coffee's not going to compete with them when they're shut and it will fulfill a need. I walked on, and got a cup of fresh, bean-to-cup coffee at Well House Manor on my way home. Well House Manor is our place - it rather looks as if the place the Costa Coffee franchise will be competing with the most is ours - and we're certainly supportive of them.

You may add your comments [here] into the planning process.




I have been asked by one of the cafes to explain why they close at 3. I'll quote the owner's words to avoid anything getting lost in transposition: The only reason I'm not open after three is that used to be open till four and between three and four there was no one bout and never came in and corner stone is open till four sainsburys cafe is open till late, also there are four unlicensed. Cafe/ coffee shops in town with at least three places that do free WIFI.




Update I was reminded that there's another coffee shop in the precinct near Waitrose, so I took a walk down there at about 15:30 this (Friday) afternoon. Closed ... from 3 p.m. with chairs stacked inside. Plenty of other shops open, but here's yet another cafe that's not.


Further Update - Saturday 23rd Feb, at 11:20


I have generated substantial feedback from a couple of people with this post - and it's excellent to be talking about it. It is a bit late in the day now for extra issues to be raised, as it's already been discussed at Chamber and planning closes in a few days.

It's very hard for the operator of a small business to keep in touch with everything that's happening, and to help with that, the Melksham Chamber of Commerce formally welcomes a Melksham Independent Trader's Representative to all of our meetings. It's up to MITA and their representative to decide whether to come to Chamber, whether to find someone to come in his place, or whether to skip it - "I have been so busy in the last few months with home and with work ..." is an understandable decision, but it's really not fair to then say you weren't asked.

The paradox is that we all have the same end in mind - we all love Melksham and we want it to thrive - for the people who live here, for the people who visit, and for our own businesses. But we need to grow for the future - to have great and vibrant things happening in the 11 vacant units I counted this morning in town (stopped in "The Bear", one of the few places open, for a coffee, and it was busy)

The opening hours "thing" interests me - our own small business is open long hours, and at times there's little customer activity on site. That's especially the case where we've got a very late checkin. At first, we saw that as a problem in terms of having people hanging around - but that became an opportunity to catch up on paperwork, on deep cleaning, on laundry, on staff training, and more and these days we're set up such that we can do those extended hours - be here for customers as required, and yet not feel that our time's in any way wasted. I received a checkin at quarter past midnight the week before last. Did I then clock straight off? No - I finished what I was working on, which took until around 1 a.m. and it was time well spent!

In our business (hotel) there are different types of places supporting different customers too - only yesterday evening, I took a booking enquiry to which my answer was a recommendation to another business that would more suit. And so it goes with eateries and places for a drink (alcoholic or not). On personal experience, there's something that's not best catered for at the moment - a gap in the market. And I go round town, usually early or late in the day, or at lunch time with my customers, and talk to people - other customers, and business owners. Come Costa Coffee, I expect I'll remain a customer of the other places I frequent and I'll actually make extra trips into town for Costa. There's a handful of places that I don't take my customers to for various reasons which can be summarised as "not appropriate for us", but that doesn't mean they're not appropriate for others.

I would encourage ANYONE who wants to come along to the next Chamber meeting. The last meeting covered and took a view on Costa Coffee - the next meeting's agenda will include - well, we'll see what comes up in the next three weeks. Much is happening on various matters - see the Chamber of Commerce front page where a list is updated. And remember - it's much easier to make effective inputs early in the process, rather than after policies have been set and decisions reached
(written 2013-02-22, updated 2013-02-23)

 
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