Thursday, July 2, 2020

News: Rotherham's Makers Emporium under review

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The operation of the Makers Emporium on Rotherham's historic High Street is being reviewed by Rotherham Council, following declining revenues and an absence of funding.

The Council wants to continue the operation but with a major review of all aspects of the business model and product offer.

Transforming the former Snafu rock bar in Rotherham town centre, the Makers Emporium offers low-cost shared and professionally-managed retail space to a mixture of makers, crafters, artists and designers.

Initially funded by the High Street Renewal Award and delivered in partnership between Rotherham Council and The Source Skills Academy, it offers a unique retail offer in the town centre and aims to support new start-businesses looking to trade for the first time, raise awareness of their products and let them see for themselves what takes to run their own business.

The project also included two "Pop Up Shops" on the High Street (the award-winning Miele Deli is still trading) and the Council's Visitor Centre and Civic Theatre Box Office co-located to the Makers Emporium in May 2018.

Having been influenced by her review of High Street, the store was officially opened by Mary Portas. On a return visit, the retail guru said: "I love this place. It's unique, creative and full of talent and new ideas."

Since opening in 2014, the High Street store has supported over 150 talented local artisans, crafters, designers, makers and independent businesses.

But now, The Source has said it no longer wants to be involved in the project and the Council needs to decide what to do.

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The Source receives an annual management fee of £7,500 from the Council in return for day-to-day management of the Emporium. The box office contributes £8,819 per annum towards the total subsidised rent of £20,000 per annum. Traders pay rent and sales commission, ranging from £10 a month rent and 40% sales commission; to £50 a month rent and 20% sales commission.

A Council paper explains: "In three years of operation (2014/15 to 2016/17) the Makers Emporium averaged income of £25,000 from commission on sales per annum. However, in 2017/18 sales began to fall and commission earned declined to just over £19,000. Commission earned for 2018/2019 was £13,423 and for the period April 2019 to January 2020, commission stands at £8,921.

"Trade has been subject to wider difficulties experienced across the retail sector, including the increased use of internet shopping and the continued attraction of out-of-town retail centres, such as Parkgate. The Makers Emporium also suffers from Rotherham's High Street being peripheral to the main retail centre; and from the loss of Primark in November 2019, a major retail attraction on the High Street."

A number of options have been discussed, including moving to smaller premises, making the two retail staff redundant, and closing the project down completely.

Paul Woodcock, strategic director, Regeneration and Environment at Rotherham Council, has made the decision to continue the operation and have a major review carried out.

The paper states: "This option recognises that after initial success the project is no longer delivering the impact on the town centre that it was expected to achieve and that it has not achieved a position of being financially selfsustaining."

The option will see work with the culture and tourism arm of the Council to "explore options to enhance the retail offer by providing more of an experience and attraction."

The paper adds: "The extent of changes under this option may need to be far reaching and essentially all aspects of the operation are on the table for review and adaptation. It is recognised that as the changes needed to implement this model are not yet known with certainty the costs of implementing these changes are not yet defined.

"The parameters for this model are to work within existing budgets and produce a robust business plan that shows how the Emporium can operate on a more sustainable financial basis."

The Makers Emporium, re-opened on June 15 with social distancing and health and safety measures in line with government guidelines.

Makers Emporium website

Images: Makers Emporium

3 comments:

Anonymous,  July 2, 2020 at 3:54 PM  

It only survived due to the grant, in the real world it wouldn't survive without a grant now or then. The excuses of the internet, location and and Parkgate are all factors that were in place when it opened. This sort of business only works from people homes as a hobby selling on Ebay, Etsy etc..

Anonymous,  July 3, 2020 at 8:39 AM  

The Makers Emporium is one of my favourite places in town, a great reminder of what shopping in Rotherham used to be like and hopefully a sign of what's to come with the new development on Forge Island.

Makers Emporium retailers most likely have a presense on Ebay and Etsy already but that can't replace the bricks and mortar shopping experience that will be lost forever if we're not careful.

A strategy that supports these retailers by blending the high street experience with a Rotherham digital marketplace may help. Similar to Etsy but it would keep the Rotherham pound in the borough and reduce courier miles for order fulfilment.

Anonymous,  July 3, 2020 at 12:46 PM  

If there was demand and people wanted to use it then it wouldn't need propping up by grants.

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