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No tourists: It's a local shop for local people, Christchurch shop owner says
A CHRISTCHURCH shop owner has banned tourists from entering his store – and claims profits have soared by 30 per cent.
Mark Galpin, who owns Christchurch Traders in the High Street, has angered councillors, tourist chiefs and other traders with his controversial “locals only” policy.
But he says he was being inundated with coach loads of tourists who were only looking to kill time.
He started turning away tourists a month ago and has seen a 90 per cent drop in footfall at the shop, which sells furniture and ornaments and is also known as Aladdin’s Cave.
But he claims sales have increased by nearly a third and many genuine customers have welcomed the move.
He now intends to alter his policy to allow admittance to any tourist willing to donate £1 to charity. The pound will then be refunded from any purchase they make.
“We have made a decision that this business should be a local business for local people,” he said. “We have a coach drop-off and pick-up point immediately opposite us and we can have five to six hundred coach passengers a day coming in and buying absolutely nothing.
“We have put up with it for three years and we believe that maybe one in every 2,500 tourists has spent a pound or two. The rest have spent nothing.
“We have really tried to cater for tourists by selling small trinkets and ornaments for a few pounds but they are not interested in buying.
“We’ve also had at least 45 to 50 local residents tell us they avoid coming in our shop when it’s busy. It was having a huge detrimental impact on our business so we decided to make it a local business for local people.
“We are an independent retailer, we pay extremely high rents and rates for being in the high street. We think that giving tourists an option of coming in if they pay a pound to an extremely worthwhile charity is the right thing to do.”
But Christchurch councillor Nicholas Geary said Mr Galpin’s policy risked damaging Christchurch’s reputation. His wife Gillian, also a councillor, was contacted by an upset tourist who had been asked to leave the shop. She visited the shop herself, pretending to be on holiday, and received the same treatment.
“It’s not doing any good for Christchurch whatsoever,” he said. “We’re working very hard to encourage people to come into our town and spend money and this attitude does us no good at all.”
Shopper Anthony Nichols, who was asked to leave the shop after admitting he was not a local resident, said he was left “speechless” by Mr Galpin’s attitude.
“He said that before I could come in, I had to read this sign which said that tourists were banned. At first I thought he was joking,” he said.
“We were actually looking for a piece of furniture on behalf of a Christchurch-based relative but I didn’t see why I should explain that to him.
“We had had a lovely time in Christchurch but that’s not what I will be taking away with me. This has ruined that. I cannot understand how he is allowed to act like this.”
Peter Watson-Lee, chair of the Christchurch Chamber of Trade, said: “This is like a depressing nightmare. We are working hard to get people to come to the town and it’s just so depressing that we have got one eccentric trader taking this stance.
“I’ve had a whole series of complaints from people but he won’t listen. It’s totally contrary to everything that the traders stand for. Tourists bring a lot of money into the town, he’s in the wrong town if he doesn’t want to welcome them.”
Matti Raudsepp, head of leisure and open spaces at the Christchurch and East Dorset partnership, said: “This is a very unusual occurrence.
"We would like to reassure tourists that they are more than welcome to come to Christchurch and I am confident that every other business in the town will be more than happy for tourists to visit their premises.”