A BOUTIQUE in Colchester’s Crouch Street is offering to pay for customer’s car parking tickets to boost trade.

Ambiance will refund the cost of parking in St Mary’s car park to anyone spending £50 or more in the shop.

Melissa Wheeler, Ambiance's head of marketing, said it was one way of fighting to preserve small independent shops.

She said: “The question is asked why shoppers go to out of town stores and the answer is the free parking.

"We would like councils to help us, but we have to take action ourselves and we came up with this idea."

If customers spend at least £50, the shop will reimburse up to three hours of parking fees worth £3.30.

Mrs Wheeler said: "We know people want to shop locally and we know Colchester shoppers value the independent shops so we thought: 'Why not work together'.

"We can't just curl up and die.

“Shopping should be an emotional experience, not just a function. It should not just be done with the click of a button.

"We want our customers to feel happier when they leave our shop and we will work to achieve that."

Ambiance, which features in the Drapers 100 inspiring independents listings, was among the shops which successfully fought Colchester Council plans to introduce parking fees for Crouch Street.

The council was considering imposing a charge for parking in Crouch Street but ditched the idea following traders' protests.

It is free to park in Crouch Street for up to 20 minutes.

Mrs Wheeler and mum Vicki are on the comittee of the Fashion Association of Britain of the British Independent Retail Association.