Recession seems to have arrived in Gillingham High Street on this chilly autumn morning, with a number of shops boarded up and an overall feeling of disheartenment hovering over the shoppers and passers-by.

This impression is hardly surprising, as newfigures show that unemployment in the Medway area has increased by seven percent over the last three months. In October, 3,987 people were listed as out ofwork, roughly 250 more than in July.

Stephanie Verrall, an unemployed mother who says she does notice the effects of the credit crunch on her personal life, is concerned that it will be more difficult for her to find work in these circumstances. Her husband, she says, has been "doing a lot of overtime to afford Christmas" for the family.

With recession looming for the coming months and a general downswing visible, local enterprises in the already deprived area are beginning to feel the effects of the economic slump.

High Street businesses are trying to cope with the different repercussions they encounter: Maureen Davis of Mann Countrywide Estate Agents, for example, says that her work has been cut by seven to eight hours a week as a result of the economic downturn. Tracey Vincent, who works for Stonewell Estates, confirms the falling demand in the housing sector and says that there has been a "definite drop in sales". The company itself has had to cut back on staff and advertising in order to save costs.

One of the major effects the downturn has had on the lives of ordinary people so far is an apparent change in their buying patterns. Many have been trying to cut back on expenses and save money, especially now with Christmas coming closer.

Local charity shops appear to be experiencing an increase in sales, since more people are making a point of buying second hand clothes or toys. Nisha Owen, working at the British Heart Foundation, says that the credit crunch has helped the shop and that they are "doing quite well".

Also, as Sara Russell, an employee at A. W. Matthews Jeweller, has noticed, "more people are coming in to try to sell their gold", as well as an increasing number of repairs.

One side effect of the economic downturn seems to be a growing readiness of some to gamble: Lisa Boniface of Betfred Bonus King, where trade has increased in the last weeks, calls it "desperate measures, desperate times".

Recession Hits the High Street