Keep it local message to shoppers

Tills have been jingling and profits rising as businesses saw customers keep it local over the festive period.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 11th January 2019, 6:00 am
Julie Robinson outside her boutique Ravello in Alnwick Market Place. Picture by Jane Coltman
Julie Robinson outside her boutique Ravello in Alnwick Market Place. Picture by Jane Coltman

And despite the closure of some stores and a decline in footfall, traders and business groups in Alnwick are taking a positive look at 2019.

Many businesses have reported a good Christmas period with plenty of sales, although some are finding it hard.

Carlo Biagioni, chairman of Alnwick Chamber of Trade, said: “Some businesses reported fairly good trade but some others are struggling. We have got to keep encouraging shoppers to keep it local.

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“The majority of eateries have been doing well over the festivities. I think the situation in the town about empty shops is getting worse because it’s the big boys that have closed, eg Iceland, Dickinsons, HSBC, but on the positive side, with business rates being cut by 30 per cent, hopefully other businesses will be encouraged to come to the town centre.

“I also believe that the refurbishment of the Playhouse, the the third phase of the Garden and the extra 74 parking spaces at the old Duchess’s high school site will bring a lot more people to Alnwick. I have no doubt that eventually the shops will fill up again.”

The closure of Alnwick’s Iceland store on December 31, together with the pound shop on Fenkle Street, has led to concerns.

Lisa Aynsley, who owns Hotspur 1364 on Narrowgate, said: “We had an extremely successful run-up to Christmas and a brilliant Christmas and we are really, really pleased about that.

“But unusually we have had a steeper than usual decline in trade into the New Year.

“I think the closure of Iceland has had a monumental impact on the town, but we need to focus on the positives and what is great about our town centre.”

Julie Robinson, who owns both Boutique Ravello and Emporium, added: “Boutique Ravello has had its best year on record. We have up-scaled and moved from Narrowgate to the Market Place to expand, we now have an upstairs and run our website from up there, and while the website is doing well, the shop is doing even better.

“The move brought Emporium to Narrowgate and while we had down time there, we are still doing well. Footfall over the festive period in the town was down, butwe have had the sales.

“It starts at the bottom, if you shop local then there will be local jobs for local people. If people don’t do that then they can’t expect it.”

Alnwick town and county councillor Gordon Castle said that Alnwick has a lot to offer but it is up to businesses to promote themselves.

He said: “Few towns across the land are better placed to live with superior attractions to visit in finer surroundings, and most would give a great deal to have anything like this town has got.

“The retail offering could be improved but that is down to the people that own the businesses. Last summer, the streets were teaming with people, businesses need to get them through their doors.”

Philip Angier, Alnwick Markets chairman, said: “After a very wet Christmas market weekend at the start of December, both our farmers’ markets and our final Saturday market were well supported by traders.

“We start 2019 with several more shopfronts in the town empty due to recent closures, but objectively Alnwick has a better track record than most in filling vacant town centre properties, so we should not be unduly dispirited about that.

“We are expecting purse strings to be tight for much of the coming year. And for us on the markets that has meant cutting back on our staff and other costs to match what we expect to earn in 2019.

“We remain passionate about Alnwick – it’s a great place to live and to work. But Alnwick businesses aren’t owed a living. We have to compete on the quality, originality and experience of our town centre.”

Further afield, Morris Adamson, of Rothbury Family Butchers, said: “We had a really good Christmas , we are up on last year and we still have lots of loyal, local customers.”