Smaller, independent traders are bucking the trend of doom and gloom on the High Street with a raft of new businesses giving it a go in Sleaford.
Will Cooke, a chartered surveyor with Sleaford estate agents, Pygott and Crone drew attention to the number of vacant town centre properties being taken up recently.
Paperwork was being completed on the former Greek Taverna restaurant to become a gourmet burger eaterie. Meanwhile Unit 2 in the Victoria pub on Southgate has opened as a beauty salon and another unit has opened as The Fabric Cupboard.
The former PC Hut computer shop on Southgate was also under offer and Wilkinsons Jewellers are moving into premises along the street. Sessions At The Courthouse fitness studio has opened in the old courthouse in the Market Place, while Alexandra’s Boutique had relocated to bigger premises on Southgate. Work is ongoing to the former NatWest Bank and Blanchards Shoes in Market Street with a sandwich bar and a clothes shop believed to be moving in.
Mr Cooke commented that catering and service businesses were predominantly those opening up, adding: “There is an element of retail like the new clothes shop, but they are mostly below the threshold for small business rate relief, whereas bigger ones where there is a service charge like in Southgate Precinct are harder to fill.”
With Wiseguys menswear shop relocating to the former Sleaford Clothing shop in Market Place, owner Mike Willis’ daughter, Samantha John is set to open Wisegirls womenswear in the old Northgate shop on Saturday, when Mayor Adrian Snookes will cut the ribbon at 9am.
Samantha is a mature student of 28 with two children, studying fashion and textiles at Portsmouth University and will be employing two staff to help run the business.
She says she already has a big line up of brands for sophisticated 30-something women who she feels are not necessarily catered for locally.
Samantha is very keen on brands that focus on sustainability, saying: “My goal is to potentially put my own brand of clothing in there.
“We do not want to lose that shopping experience of getting out of the house. It is therapy to go out, socialise and interact, seeing and trying on the products.”
Another new business is The Little Tearoom in Market Street just opened by Nina Hardy from Folkingham.
She opens Monday to Friday and then is available for afternoon tea and party bookings at weekends, as well as doing discounted pensioner coffee mornings on Tuesdays.
As well as traditional cakes, sandwiches, salads and other dishes, she is also keen to offer a wide choice for allergy and dietary requirements.
Nina said: “I worked for 20 years at the council and then one day was asked if I would retrain to help in the kitchen. I have a big family and love cooking from scratch. I love vintage tearooms and when my partner and I go to Norfolk we enjoy afternoon teas.”
A spokesman for North Kesteven District Council’s business development team said there is an ongoing buoyancy within the local independent retail sector. Locally independent shops make up 80.9 per cent of the businesses in the town centre compared to 45.4 per cent regionally and 36.4 per cent nationally.
Latest figures show fewer shop premises are vacant within Sleaford than is the regional and national rate.
He said: “In July, Sleaford had a decreasing 8.9 per cent vacancy rate – which will have dropped further in light of recent lettings – whilst nationally the average rate for town centres was 10.3 per cent and following an upward trend.”
The council says its Heart of Sleaford regeneration project and historic shop front grants scheme aim to support this trend.