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Independent traders help York buck national retail trend
YORK is bucking the trend as the city boasts a successful independent retail scene amid declining figures nationally.
Research from the Local Data Company and British Independent Retail Association shows that nationally traditional independent shops are declining at the fastest rate ever, with a loss of nearly 200 shops in the first half of this year.
The figure compares to just over 200 closures in the whole of 2012.
The “indie” scene in York, however, is showing a different trend, with hard work marking out longevity for smaller traders.
Frank Wood, chairman of the York Retail Forum, which covers independent and high street retail, said: “We had our retail forum meeting last week though and the general consensus is there is a large amount of optimism as figures are starting to show improvement.
“So far there are has been a reduction in footfall year on year, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.”
Neil Bolton, owner of Rue B jewellery and accessories shop in Minster Gates, believes the key to independent retail success lies in tourism.
He said: “Trade is still relatively buoyant. We had two shops but had to close one after the recession.
“However, we are back in a position to be opening another one again.
“The tourists do well for us and account for 70 per cent of our business. They then go home and spread the word which then boosts our online shop too.”
Echoing his view was Katherine Forsyth, shop assistant at interior design specialists Wall To Wall in Grape Lane.
She said: “A lot of our customers are from out of town, so we get a diverse range of people as well as familiar local faces.
“We find a lot of the visitors are specifically looking for independent shops.
“They want to buy something unique and individual. We often get asked by shoppers where they can find other independent shops like ours.”
With tourists supporting city-centre trade local custom is stepping in to fill the gap out of town.
Samantha Somers, shop assistant at the Paper Doll women’s boutique in Pocklington, which has just opened a shop in Back Swinegate, York, said: “The York shop is doing really well.
“I don’t think you can go wrong in that part of the city, but the Pocklington shop has been doing just as well.
“We have a lot of lovely regulars who are very reliable and even visit the new shop when they are in York.”
Success does not come without hard work and challenges though such as competition from big high street brands and online shopping.
Sue Hardy, owner of the Hairy Fig delicatessen in Fossgate, said: “Food shops especially are getting swamped by supermarkets. We just have to work hard to keep it special and different.
“I think those that don’t make it haven’t appreciated how much hard work needs it is, and then you get hit by rent going up. You have to really passionate and a little bit mad to succeed.”
Sylvia Mason, owner of Parnaby’s equestrian shop in Malton, said: “We are a specialist shop, but we still face the same challenges of getting people off the internet and into our shop.”
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