Friday, July 4, 2014

News: Rotherham's Independents' Day

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Rotherham's independent shops and market stalls are supporting the national "Independents' Day" campaign, which is in its fourth year of highlighting the UK's millions of independent retailers and encouraging the importance of shopping locally.

Held on July 4, the event is run by People 1st and the National Skills Academy for Retail. July is also Independent Retailer Month, a campaign that runs annually throughout July to highlight the important role smaller, local, independent retailers play in the communities they serve, the local economy they contribute to, and in the retail sector as a whole.

Research carried out by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES) for the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) found that for every £1 spent locally, 50-70p recirculates back into the local economy. In contrast, only 5p of every £1 spent out of town or online finds its way back to the local community.

Rotherham town centre, which is seen as a benchmark for the Portas Pilot project, has been supporting independent retailers as part of a drive to create a differentiated shopping offer. Financial support from the council began in 2009 with vitality grants to help with rent, fitout costs and expansion projects. Since then, further funding has been secured via the government and put to good use.

86 new businesses that have opened in the last three years and the reduction in vacant units on key shopping streets from over 20% to 14%.

Other initiatives include the Shop Local scheme that offers an array of discounts for loyal shoppers looking for a bargain. The scheme was launched in June 2010 and has so far encouraged over 15,000 cardholders to enjoy the benefits of discounts, offers and free gifts in over 100 Rotherham stores.

Training and support is also part of the support package with "Mystery Shopper" evaluations recently taking place.

Cllr. Dominic Beck, Cabinet Member for Business Growth and Regeneration at Rotherham Council, said: "Rotherham is a real benchmark when it comes to independent retailers. We've grasped the Portas Pilot initiative with both hands and made sure that every penny has counted in terms of bringing retail excellence to the town centre.

"Rotherham town centre has continued to buck the national trend by getting more and more people into the town centre and its thanks in part to our wonderful range of shops.

"It's thanks to your support for local businesses that help Rotherham to grow and continue to be able to offer these fantastic shops. It's our town, we live and work here, and if we don't support our small businesses, who else will?"

Kara Chapman, Rotherham's Independents' Day champion and owner of Whistlestop Sweet Shop (pictured, right), said: "Rotherham's Independents' Days have gone from strength to strength since being instigated by Laura from Bittersweet Boutique a couple of years ago, with all independent retailers and the Council fully getting behind the initiative.

"They really show the pride and strong bond we have as shop owners and our determination to bring innovative products and ideas to our customers."

Rotherham's independent shop owners are inviting both new and existing customers to come and see the vast range of items for sale in the town centre and see for themselves why Mary Portas praised it so highly.

The deputy mayor will be on hand to help shoppers sign up for a Shop Local card and save money and an Independent of the Year competition is also being launched.

Rotherham Town Centre website

Images: RMBC / Whistlestop Sweet Shop

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