Start-up retailers now being sought for Wickham Market shopping hub project

The former Co-op store in Wickham Market

The former Co-op store in Wickham Market

Start-up retailers and small businesses are being urged to lodge their interest in joining a community retail hub being launched in an east Suffolk market village.

It follows the launch of community interest company Inspirations, which wants to transform the former Co-Op site in Wickham Market into a shop to support small and start-up businesses from across the county. It is being run by the Wickham Market Town Team, Wickham Market Parish Council, the Wickham Market Partnership, the East of England Co-Operative Society and volunteers.

Retailers will benefit from a reduced rent at around £100 per linear metre and businesses mentouring, with Sharon Brown, shop project manager for a similar scheme in Stowmarket, Style@Stow, one of the company’s directors.

A survey of 143 people, undertaken at a public meeting into future plans for the site last month, found that the most desired items to be sold in the store were children’s clothes, home furnishings, ladies’ clothes, children’s books and toys, seasonal decorations, gifts and kitchenware.

Colin Owens, one of six directors at Inspirations, said the response from the village had been fantastic. Since the meeting, held on February 21, 129 people have registered an interest in buying shares - at a cost of £75 each - with a total of 224 shares being requested for purchase, and a further 45 people have volunteered their services to help get the business off the ground. However, Inspirations is still seeking a minutes secretary and a social media administrator, as well as support with IT and advertising.

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Since the meeting, a further £1,790 has also been donated towards the start-up costs.

“There’s huge public support,” said Mr Owens. “It’s very encouraging.

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“The more interest we get [from retailers], the more opportunity there will be to chose a complete and wide range of products that will work well in their entirety.

“We are keen to encourage new starts. We have had offers of mentouring support from professional mentouring consultants as well as experienced people in the village.”

Fellow director Dick Jenkinson added: “The donations have enabled us to do improvements to the shop to a higher quality.

“We have used that extra money to create a better shop.

“We are incredibly pleased that it’s going so well. If there wasn’t enough public support we couldn’t take it forward.

“We want the retailers to provide goods that people have said that they want, to compliment the other shops that are in the village so that we don’t take the bread out of other peoples’ mouths.”

Work to divide the former Co-Op store is already underway and is expected to take around eight weeks to complete.

The shop is expected to be officially opened on Wednesday, May 18.

Any profit made through the business will be put back into local projects within the community.

For more information or to register your interest in retailing or volunteering at the site, email

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