Alnwick business owners are overall 'very happy' with retail in the town

Alnwick Market Place.Alnwick Market Place.
Alnwick Market Place.
Alnwick business owners are starting the new year with a positive outlook thanks to loyal customers and the growing popularity of the town.

In 2019, retail expert Bill Grimsey gave a positive assessment about the future for Alnwick town centre but on the basis that it ‘adapts’ to survive.

It may be opinions such as Mr Grimsey’s, whose radical suggestions for the regeneration of Britain’s high streets and town centres involved encouraging them to move away from traditional retail and instead re-fashion them as public spaces with alternatives to retail to make them relevant and viable once again, that bring about this idea that towns like Alnwick are ‘dying’.

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Following Grimsey’s visit, Cllr Gordon Castle had previously said: “We must have one of the most attractive streetscapes in the country and look at the attractions nearby like the castle, garden and Barter Books.

“The struggle we have is our small population and distance from the likes of Newcastle but I maintain that Alnwick has enormous potential.

“Some people might say that Alnwick is dying but they are wrong. It’s changing and must adapt further.”

Since then, Alnwick has undergone lots of changes, with additional local businesses and big shop brands entering the market, as well as tourist attractions such as Lilidorei that have kept the town buzzing.

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Despite the new developments, there’s still some of the opinion that Alnwick is on the decline, but after speaking to local business owners over the festive period, their views are quite the opposite.

In regards to current retail trends over the festive period, Lisa Aynsley, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “We're very lucky in Alnwick because we've got a really loyal local following. All the regulars have come back. There is a real sort of desire to shop local with everybody in Alnwick so that's always really good.

“The first couple of weeks of January are really quite positive because there's still quite a lot of tourists about. The schools aren't back till the eighth or ninth of January so that means that we do get an extra week into the month but again we need all the support that we can get to get through January and February. They're traditionally difficult.”

Pressures like the cost-of-living-crisis have changed the way people shop and it’s no different for Alnwick. However, there’s still a desire to shop in person.

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Lisa added: “I think people are shopping smarter. Individual baskets are slightly reduced but, by and large, people are still determined to support their local businesses.”

Fiona Nelson-van Loon, owner of Ruby Tuesday, said: “I think there's a lot of opinions that the high street is on its knees. It is tough but I think for a small market town we're doing really well.

“It can always be better, there's certainly been days where you think the footfall could be higher, but people want to be in small independent shops, they want to see different things and that's the lifeblood of what keeps us going.

“It's different every year, certainly this year it's been perhaps not as busy as we expected to start off with. I think a lot of people have left it a little bit late this year but overall I'm really very happy.