Gift store owner's delight at £10k bank windfall

Duck in Boots the independent gift and craft shop in Sudbury is returning to the town centre after

Sarah Underhay wants to launch her glass-walled Duck Pods in other parts of East Anglia - Credit: Charlotte Bond

A high street gift store owner who created "pods" for traders to sell their wares after lockdown struck has scooped a bank accolade.

Sudbury gift shop Duck in Boots is one of just 24 across the UK to scoop a Small Business of 2020 award from Lloyds Bank, after making the most of its online opportunities after it had to close its doors.

Duck Pods at Duck in Boots

Sudbury gift shop Duck in Boots has scooped a small business award from Lloyds Bank after launching Duck Pods - Credit: Andy Chambers Photography

Shop founder Sarah Underhay now says she would like to create more of her glass-walled "Duck Pods" -  which are available for hire for a day or a month and local suppliers a virtual shop window for their wares during lockdown - across East Anglia and the UK.

Duck in Boots sells local artisan and top design brands, sourcing from local businesses, artists and crafters alongside household names like Royal Worcester.

The store was chosen from almost 900 businesses across the country, with the winners selected because of how creatively and quickly they adapted their businesses and "their inspiring energy and resilience in meeting the challenges of 2020", said the bank.

Ms Underhay wins £10,000 worth of social media support and advertising, as well as a business mentoring session to help develop her growth plans.

Her shop business - founded in 2017 - had outgrown its original town premises and was seeking a new home when lockdown hit.

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In August, it relocated to a new site in the town's Gaol Lane, which also includes two ‘Duck Pods’ suitable for pop-up shops and held Covid-safe markets for local traders from the site.

When the second lockdown was announced, she had to move everything online, holding virtual markets that gave a platform for traders to video chat with customers and show off their wares.

“My background is as an artist, but I started Duck in Boots because I couldn’t find any local outlets for my work," she said.

“Lockdown meant we had to change the way we do things quickly, and we’re continuing to improve and expand on the online opportunities we can offer our suppliers, many of whom need to be able to work flexibly.

“When lockdown ends, the ‘Duck Pods’ are a really accessible opportunity for people who might have the ambition to open their own shop to trade or test their brand in their own space.

Duck in Boots success story. Picture is Sarah Underhay.

Duck in Boots owner Sarah Underhay. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Gareth Oakley, managing director of business banking at Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Duck in Boots supports a whole ecosystem of businesses in the area and beyond and Sarah has given them a way to build their presence and trade online.

“In a really difficult environment, she’s made the most of the opportunities technology can offer to connect with people and do business.

“It’s a business with great potential and creativity, and this award is well deserved.”