BUSINESSES on an Oxfordshire high street say ‘extraordinarily supportive’ customers, a tight-knit community and its ‘prime' location are some of the reasons why the high street has barely any empty shops.

In comparison to many town centres across the county, Thame's is thriving with just one empty shop reportedly in the high street.

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Shop owners say the reason why the town has managed to keep business going - especially during the pandemic - is because of loyal customers who shop local.

Bryan Pattinson, who runs independent bookshop The Book House which turns 50 next year, said: "We started as a children’s bookshop and we’ve built up a really large clientele over the years. When Amazon came along they wanted very much to keep us on the high street - they have been extraordinarily supportive.

"Lots and lots of independents are still here and unfortunately more and more multinationals are trying to move in which is not a good sign, but just the other day a small shop that had closed reopened as a Turkish barber. As soon as a shop closes, they open up again, so that’s a very good sign."

High streets in other Oxfordshire towns are struggling. In Bicester, M&Co, Marks & Spencer, H. Samuel, Clintons and Dorothy Perkins closed last year - all national chains.

But businesses in Thame say the close community and the town's good links to London is what is helping to keep the high street alive.

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Sam Walker, manager of Wally’s Toy Shop, said: "There was a good Facebook group for Thame that kicked off during Covid where shops can post on it and people can recommend places.

"People would very kindly post our shop on the page and you’d end up getting messages and phone calls from people wanting to order something. A very involved group like that online has allowed people to see what's on offer in Thame and people have stuck with it which is nice because I know it's easy to fall back online."

Robert French Junior is the assistant manager at seven-year-old family-run business Thame Jewellery Workshop which makes bespoke jewellery, something that has become popular since lockdown ended.

He said: "There is quite a bit of money in the area, but we’re also in a prime spot where we’re right close to the M40 and we're still in the commuter belt. There are a lot of people who work in London who live around here and in the surrounding villages as well as Thame.

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"And so I think that a lot of people really like Thame’s market vibe and they’ve obviously got the money to spend and keep things going."

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