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Changing retailing habits prompts independent focus at Freshney Place

GRIMSBY’S primary shopping centre, Freshney Place, is highlighting the big contributions small businesses make.

Changing retailing habits prompts independent focus at Freshney Place

While it may be the obvious choice of location for high street names nationwide – and with Primark’s £4 million expansion eagerly anticipated – Independent Retailer Month, which drew to a close yesterday, has also been celebrated. 

According to research conducted by the Centre for Local Economic Strategies (CLES), for every £1 spent with a local, independent business, between 50p and 70p circulates back into the local economy. And such rewards and provenance have seen campaigns such as Great British High Street and Totally Locally spawned. 

The ever-changing retail landscape means small businesses are becoming an even more crucial element for the success of the high street. According to the British Independent Retailers Association, more independent retail shops opened than closed in the first quarter of this year.

Amanda Austin, centre director, said she was passionate about attracting additional small and family-run businesses to keep the centre’s offering fresh and diverse. 

She said: “There are so many fantastic entrepreneurs in Grimsby and the surrounding areas – we’re very lucky to have an abundance of home-grown talent in our midst. Freshney Place is an ideal platform for nurturing fledgling retailers and for established independents to expand into larger premises.”

The shopping centre currently has six popular independent retailers – Fleurtations, Eye Candy, In the Pink, Princess, Isla Grace Boutique and Go Cruise – which span the horticultural, clothing, accessories and travel sectors. 

Fleurtations – a floral specialist at the centre – has been trading for 33 years and is run by the Grimsby family of entrepreneurs, the Brasteds – Monica, Norman and Tanya – and Andrea Griffiths. 

Tanya attributes Fleurtations’ success to having built a great reputation through accommodating each and every customer requirement. 

She added: “We care a lot about the service we provide and we all have a different role to play and that is why we are still successful.

 “Independent Retailer Month does a great job in putting additional emphasis on supporting small businesses as we are totally reliant on local customers choosing us over national brands. 

 “We like to lead by example and do as much as we can for the community too and over a six-year period, we helped the Royal British Legion raise more than £58,000 and put on the most amazing floral displays for everyone to enjoy.”

Go Cruise and Travel has been in business for five years and operated from the owners’ home – Sharon and Jim Allen – before moving to Freshney Place after winning the shopping centre’s ‘Apprentice Retailer’ business competition. It brought her a free unit for six months, and she is still firmly anchored 18 months on.

When asked what the key to the businesses success was, Sharon pointed to the extensive training and knowledge her team of four has about different cruise ships, destinations and holiday companies, coupled with exceptional customer service.

“It sounds like a cliché, but we have met so many lovely people that have not only become our customers, but we now count as friends - we even got our first wedding invite this month.

“We believe it is important to always try and support local businesses. In doing so, you will receive a better personal service, quality products and know you are supporting the local community,” said Sharon.

Gina Baskcomb, manager at the Grimsby branch of accessories store, Eye Candy – a family-run business of 21 years owned by Jane and David Taylor – said the business started out on market stalls, one of which was in Cleethorpes, before moving to Freshney Place in 2014. The couple also have additional premises in Great Yarmouth, Boston and King’s Lynn.

She explained that being an independent has allowed the business to successfully respond to meet customer demand, with plans for the team to expand again with four more stores later this year.

Karen Webb-Meek, owner of In the Pink, has been running her jewellery business for 13 years, the last seven of which have been at Freshney Place.

Karen puts the success of the store down to being able to keep pace with market trends. She said: “We are the go-to silver jewellery store locally, and we have some unique brands that are not available anywhere else.

“Buying local means that your money not only supports the shop you buy from, but also a whole host of people who live and work in the town and all the connections radiating out from that circle, such as tradesmen employed for their maintenance services,” Karen said. “Money spent at an independent business is a direct re-investment into Grimsby and all the other smaller enterprises here.”

Rajan Bhandari, owner and managing director of fashion store, Princess, said he would enjoy seeing the town’s independent community growing even more. He said: “Freshney Place is a lively shopping centre and makes an ideal hub for independent traders. Smaller retailers have the power to bring additional quirkiness and versatile shopping experiences for customers.

“We’ve been able to develop great relationships as we can take the time to find out what products our customers want so our service is quite bespoke. Clients appreciate the effort and always come back to spend their money with us,” Rajan said.

Amanda concluded: “It’s fantastic to see our independent retailers flourishing as they play an essential role in keeping Grimsby’s economy buoyant.

“Freshney Place is fully committed to supporting local entrepreneurial talent and we’re always looking to encourage more small businesses to join us at the centre so we can further enhance the high quality, value-led shopping experience we offer,” she said.

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