By BBC Midlands Today's Kevin Reide
There's a stark warning that our high streets are in danger of becoming ghost towns unless action is taken to fill empty shops hit by the recession.
The Local Government Association is calling for new powers to allow town halls to use shops temporarily as sites for community projects.
BBC Midlands Today has been featuring High Streets as part of a new series and they have visited Coventry's Ball Hill in the Stoke area of the city.
There are around a hundred shops and small businesses there, many independent traders amongst some big High Street names. Midlands Today also carried out a straw poll, which found that 60 per cent of independent traders recorded their income down on last year.
Samit Sunita runs an off licence and Mags Pinner runs a card shop.
While Mags is doing well, Samit is struggling. He said: "I had two staff working with me here and I got rid of them simply because we can't afford to pay the wages. I'm doing cash and carry, loading, unloading, doing the shelving, cleaning the shop, being the till man, being the security guard - everything!"
He's sure who is to blame for the recession and wants the government to do more: "If the government can help out these bankers then why shouldn't we be helped out as well? My problem is tiny, I'm moaning that I can't pay the minimum wage and these people have done blunders worth billions. I want a little help - I definitely want to be helped out."
Mags Pinner's shop is further up the street. She's been trading for a quarter of a century, in which time she has sold various products from pottery to childrens wear.
She now sells greeting cards and says her income is up twenty per cent on last year. Her secret: "If what you are selling isn't right then you have got to change it. As long as your prices are not too expensive and you have got what people want - birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, then you know, I'm busy because I've got what people want - hopefully."
Too much talk of recession
Mags also believes there is too much talk of recession making people hold on to their cash which in turn slows the economy. She wants people who have money to carry on as normal.
So two tales of two Coventry shop owners, but the general picture for High Streets is not great. One survey at the weekend found there were 45 thousand empty shops in the UK in December and that has now doubled to 90 thousand.
last updated: 03/03/2009 at 10:51