Life in Louth is upbeat
It isn’t hard to see why this historical market town is classed as the capital of the Lincolnshire Wolds.
Nestled at the foot of the Wolds, Louth has Georgian and Victorian architecture, an upbeat community spirit and an abundance of independent shops, which give it a uniqueness all of its own. Much work is done behind the scenes to encourage inward investment and new start-up businesses, as well as events and activities to increase footfall and boost the local economy.
Chamber of Business chairman Neil Sharpley, who is also chair of the Louth branch of The Federation of Small Businesses, said things are settling down.
“The retail environment has done better in Louth than in a lot of cities because there are a lot of independent small shops that are different and draw people into the town,” he said. People have got over the recession period and things are settling down. Generally the feeling in the town is upbeat but no-one is expecting things to be wonderful overnight. It will be a long and small evolution.”
There are moves afoot to try and get the Lincolnshire Wolds established as a brand in its own right.
“We have a very distinct market town brand and we feel the Wolds is very distinct itself and could be a separate brand. It is very imaginative and challenging but we feel there is a lot of potential to improve things by drawing on our similarities to attract people into the area for work, investment and visits.”
The Chamber also liaises with the Lincolnshire Enterprise Partnership and there is also an idea about making it an enterprise zone.
“The small market towns suffer because of their size and they don’t have the critical economic nuances that other places have. They need our attention,” said Neil.
“We are more vulnerable because we don’t have a railway or mobile broadband so we are lobbying to get better broadband and mobile phone coverage and we are trying to get people to look at the Wolds in a new way because it has changed substantially. I think we are going in the right direction.”
Working alongside the Chamber of Business in the town is the Louth Independent Traders’ Group which was set up earlier this year when the Louth Town Partnership folded.
Chairman Gary Dennis said: “The Louth Town Partnership was funded by East Lindsey District Council and used to put on events in the town to encourage people into the area. ELDC withdrew its funding and it folded but traders didn’t want to lose those events because they brought footfall into the town.
“A group of us got together and the consensus of opinion was that we could do it ourselves. We started in January this year and set up a group constitution and we were given £1,500 from ELDC to get ourselves started.”
Since then the group has been steadily going from strength to strength.
“We put on a very successful Victorian market in September, linking in with the 500th anniversary celebrations for the St James’ Church spire. People came in their thousands to the market, they went into the church and then watched the firework display in the evening.
“It is very difficult to say how many people visited Louth during that event but an estimate would be around 3,000. There was good feedback and it was a lovely day. Lots of people gave up their time to help and everyone got into the spirit of the event.
“People came and stayed for the day and it was really good. That helps the local economy because they are spending money in the town.”
The group’s next event is the Christmas market on 29th November.
“The reason behind the date is that it doesn’t conflict with other markets,” said Gary. “We are also planning a Louth Fashion and Beauty Week to try and get the shops working together. The fashion show will be in the town hall and the following week each individual store will put on their own event.”
The group is a non-political group and its aim is to create more footfall into the town.
“We are also launching the VIP card, which is a Louth Loyalty card. It will be run six times a year. Whatever promotion a shop has at the time, customers with a loyalty card can get discount on it. The scheme aims to encourage people to shop locally.”
There is also support and assistance for new small businesses at the Fairfield Enterprise Centre in Louth which is run by East Lindsey District Council.
Centre manager Claire Matthews said the centre is predominantly a range of office accommodation to help small start-up businesses.
“We have thirty-six offices there, and there is a wide variety of businesses and also several rooms which can be used by external tenants for interviews and meetings,” she said.
“It is almost full, ninety per cent occupied at the moment, and it is very busy. It has been going about six or seven years and it is the first time it has been this busy, so it has been a big success.”
The idea is that the small, one-man band businesses work from an office at the centre until they get established.
“We have a manned reception desk, we greet their visitors and answer the telephones for them. It is an instant response. The one-man bands are out and about and it saves them employing a secretary and someone to man the office,” said Claire.
“We also do some admin services for them. The support is there as much or as little as they need. The idea is they move in with us and grow within the centre and get established until they get to the stage where they can move onto greater things.”
Another scheme which has been offering support to businesses in the area is the East Lindsey Information, Training and Enterprise programme (ELITE) which is set to finish next month.
Over the past year, ELITE has supported a number of businesses with twelve hours of professional business support, tailored to the needs of each business.
In partnership with East Lindsey District Council, this ERDF funded programme aims to help SMEs in the area to grow and expand their business in the hope of stimulating the area.
Project manager Sarah Whitaker said: “So far ELITE has supported nearly fifty businesses, with a number still enrolled in the programme. Previously, we have assisted businesses with their marketing needs, taking advantage of social media sources, adjusting or rewriting business plans, sales strategy and financial understanding.”
Louth is renowned as a food town and is capital of the sausage world, with several different butchers having won Butcher of the Year awards and even supplying Buckingham Palace with sausages.
In 2012, it was named ‘Britain’s Favourite Market Town’ by the BBC’s Countryfile.
Though Louth has many long-established businesses in the town, it still attracts newcomers and one of the latest retailers to arrive on the scene has relocated from Skegness.
Orchid Boutique is a small independent ladies’ designer wear shop, with a focus on personal service and a first-class reputation.
Owner Tanya Hardy opened for business in Eastgate just a few months ago and isn’t looking back.
“I moved to Louth in order for my business to survive and because I felt there was a gap in the market for what I did and what I wanted to provide,” said Tanya.
“It took a little while but I opened in May and it has gone better than expected. Word is getting about and I have got quite a few new regular customers. We are very friendly and we like to make friends with our customers. It has been great since we moved. We have met some new ladies and existing customers do still visit the shop, which has been nice.”
Tanya, who runs the shop with daughter Danielle, still lives in Skegness.
“I was born and bred in Skegness and still live there and commute to Louth everyday. It is a pleasant journey,” she said.
“Louth is such a unique little town. It has so much going for it and I felt my type of business would fit in nicely. There are so many independent traders here and people come to shop and browse around the town.
“You don’t get that in other town centres. People that come into Skegness are nipping into the bank or going to the hairdressers and not spending any time in the town. It is far more of a shopping experience when you come to Louth.”
Tanya ran the shop in Skegness for three years but wasn’t a newcomer to the trade.
“My mother was in the trade for years and I grew up with it. Mum had a few shops around the area and she used to pick me up from school and we would go round the shops cashing up.”
Tanya opened her first shop, a shoe shop, at the tender age of twenty-one and was in situ for five years before she married and started a family. When Tanya bought the shop in Louth it was just called Orchid but she renamed it and put her own mark on it.
“I had people phoning up thinking we were a flower shop. So I changed the name to Orchid Boutique, changed the colouring and made it my own.”
Tanya is the newest member of Louth Independent Traders’ Group.
“The group works for the town to keep the independents going and it is the support we need. I don’t think you can sit back and think people will still come.
“You need to market yourself. I just felt that they would be good for me and that hopefully I could bring something to the group as well.”
KINGS HEAD HOTEL
Louth may be steeped in history, but The Kings Head, its only town centre hotel, has a history all of its own.
Owner and landlady Sharon Davies has discovered documentation which shows it was in existence more than 380 years ago.
“The earliest documentation of its existence is a cockfight here in 1628. But it was an old coaching house and it has a traditional coaching inn history going back more than 250 years.”
Sharon has been in charge at the Kings Head for eleven years and during that time the hotel has seen many changes.
“It has been completely refurbished from roof to floor. There is a new floor in the main bar, paving outside, it is a listed building and in conjunction with East Lindsey District Council we have revamped and renewed it but retained the old traditional feel in the bar.”
All the bedrooms have been sympathetically refurbished in a contemporary style and for visitors wanting a longer stay, whether for work or a holiday, the hotel has a self-contained three-bedroomed apartment.
“Luckily we are very busy with bookings and most of our rooms are booked up,” said Sharon.
“People come from all over the country either for holidays or for events that are held in the town. One family comes down from Scotland for the Christmas market and stays in the apartment and a lot of business people and people attending Cadwell Park use the hotel.
“It is also documented that Ghandi once slept here and that Winston Churchill stayed here as well.”
The hotel has just taken on a new chef and has started doing traditional lunches, which are proving popular with locals and visitors alike.
“I am very lucky. I have a nice busy bar, function rooms and letting rooms and the hotel is ideally placed in the town centre.
“It is very close to St James’s Church, so we are ideally placed for christenings and weddings and the hotel has an upstairs function room and an outside beer garden.”
The hotel is playing its part in the town’s Christmas market which is taking place on 29th November.
“We will have an indoor Christmas fayre with stalls inside the hotel and a Father Christmas for the children.Throughout November there will be live bands on every weekend,” added Sharon.
Striacroft Jewellers was founded by Philip and Ranka Cartledge and started life as a market stall, travelling to various markets around the county. They began trading at their Butcher Lane store in May 1978, choosing the beautiful, unspoilt market town of Louth with its mainly small independent shops. Striacroft is a family business now in its second generation and Louth’s longest established jewellers.
The small shop is packed with something for all ages and budgets with a large range of high quality diamond, gold and silver jewellery, including engagement rings and wedding rings. Jewellery brands include Hot Diamonds, Amore, Emozioni, Aviv, David Dayong and My iMenso; watch brands include Roamer of Switzerland, Citizen, Junkers, Daniel Wellington, O.W.L, Zeppelin and Lorus. Clocks, giftware and pre-owned jewellery and luxury watches, including Omega & Rolex, are also stocked.
Earlier this year saw the launch of their new e-commerce website, with a large range of their products available to buy online at www.striacroft.co.uk
They have a workshop onsite carrying out various repairs on jewellery, from ring resizing to pearl rethreads. Watch repairs from batteries and straps to full strip servicing. Other services include engraving, ear piercing and valuations for insurance. Striacroft belong to the Guild of Master Craftsmen and the National Association of Goldsmiths.
LUCK OF LOUTH
Louth is renowned for its range of independent shops and businesses which draw people into the town on a regular basis.
Traditional bakers, award-winning specialist butchers, cheesemongers, fishmongers, greengrocers, a chocolatier and upholsterers, to name but a few – Louth has them all. And it can also boast a number of long-established family-run firms which have proved their loyalty to the town by putting Louth on the map for decades, if not centuries.
One such firm is Luck of Louth, which was established in 1985 and offers a traditional English country shopping experience. It stocks an extensive range of the finest quality classic countrywear, men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, footwear, leathergoods and luggage.
Luck of Louth has always focussed on providing customers with quality and value from trusted brands and it continues to do so.
“We have successfully integrated several slightly more fashion-focused brands of clothing and footwear in our shops alongside our well-established traditional quality offer,” said store owner Jim Luck, who was only thirty-four when he opened his first shop.
“Our business has continued to evolve and adapt through the year in response to ever-changing consumer expectations and tastes. We have brought in several new brands during 2015 and of course look forward to further refining our offer in 2016.
“We hope to grow our business through 2016 and expect to continue to search out new brands and suppliers to fulfil customer demand.”
Luck of Louth’s principles have paid off, with the business winning a number of awards over the decades.
“We were finalists in the Pure ‘Best of British’ Independent Retailer awards categories of ‘Best Independent Retailer’ and ‘Best Independent Shoe Retailer’ 2014, adding to the many other nominations and awards we have received since our 25th anniversary in 2010,” said Jim.