‘Thriving’: 9 new shops open in town centre during coronavirus crisis
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
It is often said that town centres are struggling to survive, particularly during Covid-19 - but with nine new stores moving in since lockdown, how is Sudbury bucking the trend? Here some of the new businesses to open in the last six months.
The closure of the Winch and Blatch branch in King Street was a blow for Sudbury, given the department store’s long history in the town.
However Townrow, which opened five weeks ago in Winch and Blatch’s former premises, has flourished during the pandemic.
The firm - a family-run business with branches in Cambridgeshire and Essex, established in 1871 - sells everything from homewares and kitchen utensils to clothes, shoes and handbags.
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A toy section selling brand names such as Lego and LOL dolls is due to open in the coming weeks.
Managing director Edward Townrow said: “The store has exceeded our expectations.
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“The customers have been wonderful. Winch and Blatch were talking to us earlier this year about their plans to shut down. There was a lot of uncertainty at the time so we weren’t sure.
“But we did it very quickly once we decided - we didn’t see much point in wasting any time.
“We’re quite lucky that our stores are in coastal and river towns - there’s a retail destination.
“After lockdown, the one place everyone wanted to go was the coastal areas and people have spent a lot of time doing up their homes and kitchens, and cooking.
“We hope the customers continue to support us. Sudbury is a fantastic town - with a thriving future.”
Nell and Green Botanics
Indoor plant specialists Nell and Green Botanics opened in East Street in March, offering a range of houseplants, pots, baskets, fertilisers and botanical advice both in store and online.
Owners Ellie and Lee Bishop said: “We opened on March 20 and made the decision to close just two days later, a day before the closure of non-essential shops.
“Business has been great since we reopened - of course we have no point of reference because we weren’t open this time last year, but we definitely feel that despite everything, our start has been a positive one. The support we have had has been amazing.”
Blushington Beauty, offering customised face, body and wellness treatments, has moved into the former East Anglian Daily Times offices in King Street.
Owner Jodie Lever, whose beauty industry expertise spans over 15 years, founded the company in 2016.
She has spent 10 years teaching beauty therapy to spa managers and hotel owners all over the world, including at the Mandarin Oriental London, Peninsula Hotel Paris and Tokyo and the Ritz Carlton in Los Angeles.
Duck in Boots
Duck in Boots, an independent gift and craft shop with an entrepreneurial twist, was set up in Gaol Lane by Sarah Underhay.
She is well-known for her wooden ducks with pretty painted bonnets and boots.
Mrs Underhay is keen to support other local artists and businesses and her new premises - which opened six weeks ago - has two “duck pods” alongside the main studio shop, which can be rented out to launch or expand other community-based artists and companies.
With a passion for inspiring the next generation, Mrs Underhay is supportive of people who lack qualifications, herself having left school at the age of 15 with no GCSEs due to struggling socially.
She said: “I do a post every summer saying don’t worry about what your exam results are - I run my own business and I haven’t got a single GCSE.
“Yes, they give you access to a lot of opportunities but you are the maker of your own future.”
Ray’s Retro, Classic Toys and Collectables
Ray’s Retro, Classic Toys and Collectables is a new shop coming to the town and will be officially opening on Saturday, October 3.
Based in North Street, the shop will be run by Tony Byfield, whose father Ray died in June this year.
The Convenience Store
Situated in East Street, the shop sells newspapers and everyday shopping essentials.
It provided a much-needed service during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Bridal Reloved Sudbury
This wedding dress boutique, formerly based in Lavenham, is now situated in Gaol Lane - one of the UK’s largest bridal chains and the world’s only chain of pre-owned wedding dress boutiques.
The Lash Box
The beauty salon, owned by Bethany Vella with over six years experience, specialises in eyelash and eyebrow treatments, also opened in East Street in March, the day before lockdown was announced.
Pile it High
Matt Francis opened discount shop Pile It High in North Street in June, in the town’s former Age UK shop bringing the people of Sudbury the “very best prices” on a range of different products.
Rachel Price, town centre manager for Sudbury Town Council said: “The UK high street retail vacancy rate was at 12.4% in July - around 10% is considered economically healthy.
“In July this year Sudbury’s vacancy rate was 7.3%. In July 2019 it was 8.4% - so using vacancy rate as a measure of vitality, Sudbury’s high street is actually healthier than this time last year.
“Significantly, all the new businesses are small independents, which is great for the character of our high street.”