New plans to harness town’s potential
Businesses in Horncastle have been working together to encourage more trade and visitors, with expert advice and markets for young entrepreneurs providing a boost in a challenging economic climate. By Melanie Burton.
Across the country inflation and soaring energy prices were the top concerns for businesses as they looked ahead to October and less spending power for the public threatens to impact trade and put those only just recovering from the pandemic back to square one.
Local authorities like Horncastle Town Council and East Lindsey District Council are doing all they can to help businesses come through this latest unsettled period with initiatives and plans to attract visitors and increase footfall into the town centres.
The town council has worked hard to make the town centre more appealing and with ELDC and community organisations has helped to secure just over £26,000 funding to improve the appearance of the town.
A ‘Welcome to Horncastle’ mural has been created by graffiti artists ImageSkool, who were commissioned to work with the community to create the artwork. The finished mural pays tribute to the town’s rich heritage, with a Roman soldier and wall, a Lancaster Bomber and a dog with a bandaged leg painted by nearby Vet on the Corner. The funding will also pay for a deep clean of the town and tools and equipment to keep the town looking tidy, providing events to attract more visitors, and purchasing additional picnic benches, planters and bins.
Work will also continue over the coming months and into next year through liaisons with ELDC’s Vital and Viable team to enhance the town centre even more, continue with the community clean-up days and restart the Market Day surgeries.
Businesses also had the opportunity recently to connect and gain valuable and practical advice from retail expert and High Street champion Graham Soult when he visited the town.
Soult, a digital marketing expert and respected media commentator founded the retail consultancy business CannyInsights.com in 2010 and has visited 600 retail centres across the country over the last decade, including in Lincolnshire.
Described by the BBC as “the region’s best-known retail expert”, and by ITV as “a North East Mary Portas”, Soult is often named as being among the most influential retail people on Twitter. Regularly appearing on TV, radio and in the press, his visit to Horncastle was arranged in partnership with Horncastle’s Trade Association.
The event was part of the Government’s High Street Task Force as Horncastle was chosen as one of 70 areas in the UK to receive specialist support to help strengthen high streets.
The Task Force launched an Unlocking Your Place Potential workshop in June last year, which identified Horncastle as an attractive town that is proud of its heritage and environment. It also identified Horncastle as needing some support to develop a vision for the town and to increase its collaborative working.
From this, themed markets started to help drive footfall, including a Teenage Market and a Steampunk event.
Portfolio Holder for Market Towns at East Lindsey District Council, Councillor Adam Grist, said: “Horncastle is an attractive market town that is proud and lucky enough to have so many independent businesses that help make Horncastle the fantastic place that it is. This was a great opportunity for businesses to hear new ways they could work together to benefit the town centre offer.”
Chair of Horncastle Traders’ Association, Kay Burge, said: “This was a great opportunity for Horncastle business representatives to get together, chat and meet Graham, who has a wealth of knowledge on ways to keep the town centre fresh and exciting for shoppers and visitors.”
The Teenage Market, the first of its kind to be held in the town, gave young entrepreneurs a taste of trading with homemade artwork, handmade jewellery, home-baked cakes and much more being sold.
ELDC partnered with the nationally renowned Teenage Market Company to bring the market to Horncastle and it was such a success that another one is being planned for this month.
Samantha Phillips, ELDC’s Place Officer, said: “East Lindsey needs young entrepreneurs to become the next generation of independent shop owners, crafters, entertainers and market traders. We really want these teenage markets to be a platform for young talent in our area, which we hope will boost the success of Horncastle and our other district markets for years to come.
Visitor economy businesses also have the opportunity to learn and gain valuable support from retail champion Clare Bailey. One of the most well-known and respected sector experts in the UK, Clare is a leading authority, a regular TV news guest – featuring on the BBC, Talk TV, Sky, Channel 4 and ITV.
The Destination Lincolnshire initiative, supported with funding from East Lindsey District Council, Boston Borough Council and West Lindsey District Council, saw a new business support programme launched for those working in retail, hospitality, leisure and visitor attractions.
Using Covid-19 recovery funding from the councils, Clare’s work will show businesses how to better market themselves, tackle social media, manage stock control, sell to their ideal customer, dress shop windows and generate kerb appeal, aiming to instil business confidence, so that joint shopping/leisure marketing campaigns can be developed.
Clare said: “For me, this is about the whole offering of a place. What makes a destination is as much about the locals who visit daily as well as those visiting from further afield. Encouraging collaboration between local businesses across retail, hospitality, leisure, personal care and attractions is what enables more exciting and curated experiences to be developed, giving people a more compelling reason to visit one place over another.
“I’ve seen first-hand how – with a little support – businesses can come together to deliver unique experiences.
“Typically, only larger organisations can deliver such experiences, but by encouraging smaller businesses to combine their skills and offering, they could present something much more appealing to visitors. That’s exactly what we’ll be looking at doing over the coming months, and in so doing the aim is to boost trade for all by delivering greater visitor attraction, boosting footfall and creating a real buzz around the county.”
Councillor Grist, who is the Portfolio Holder for Market Towns and Rural Economy at East Lindsey District Council said: “Our independent retailers play a huge part in the character of our market towns and we want to ensure they are in the best position possible to thrive.
“Since 2019 we have supported businesses with our Vital and Viable market towns project to get more people shopping locally and increasing footfall for traders. We continue to support businesses as they recover from the pandemic and with added pressures from the cost of living crisis, it’s important now more than ever to do what we can to help businesses thrive.”
Help is also at hand to support hospitality and tourism businesses in towns and cities like Horncastle.
Business Lincolnshire, as part of its Growth Hub offer, is running a fully-funded bespoke seven-week hospitality boost programme delivered through a combination of group sessions and one-to-one support providing a flexible schedule for business owners.
The programme, which starts on 17th October, will be delivered by specialist consultancy firm CDI Alliance and offers delegates the chance to network with like-minded business people from the hospitality and tourism sector.
Councillor Colin Davie, Executive Councillor for Economy and Place at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “The visitor economy sector is currently estimated to be worth over £2.39 billion per year to the economy, supporting at least 30,000 full-time equivalent jobs across Greater Lincolnshire.
“Tourism is growing and is one of the most important growth sectors for our region. Whether you’re a sole trader with a permanent team or a long-standing family-owned business employing casual and seasonal staff, this intensive programme will be adapted to suit individual support needs.”
Horncastle is renowned for its family run independent shops and businesses but there is still room for the household name stores to set up shop in the town if they want to.
Lidl is the latest one vying for a spot, having submitted plans to East Lindsey District Council in May to build a new supermarket on the site of the Boston Road Service Station, where Gulf fuel is sold at the Premier shop.
However Aldi has been waiting for a decision since February on its proposal for a development on Spilsby Road.
Both will employ 80 people between the two shops, if given the go-ahead, with the Aldi store also planning to have a fuel station.
Alongside the store, Lidl’s plans also include a 100 space car park.
There are eight full-time employees currently working at the petrol station, but the new development could bring 40 full-time jobs if it is turned into a Lidl store.
Bosses at Aldi have reiterated their ambition to open, saying the proposal remains high on the supermarket chain’s list of priorities.
Richard Thompson, property director for Aldi, said: “We’ve been keen to invest in Horncastle for some time and are aware that there is a lack of discount supermarket options for residents.
“With the current cost of living crisis, now more than ever, customers are looking for better-value products to help their money go further.
“Our proposed store would go a long way in saving people money on their food shopping. Our public consultation received an encouraging response with hundreds pledging their support for the plans.”
Aldi has said it hopes a decision on the project will be made by summer next year.
INDULGE YOUR CREATIVE TALENTS
As horncastle’s premier textiles and sewing centre, All Sewn Up By Debs, which celebrates its fifth anniversary this year, offers an innovative range of fabulous fabrics, haberdashery, trim, buttons and more.
Always keen to share her creative talents, owner Deb Davis has a lifelong passion for crafting and is on hand to share her expertise and advice.
“Whether hand or machine sewing, we have something for everyone, so let’s continue to be creative and encourage more people to sew.
“Our workshops are also a big part of our shop and I’ve taught sessions for all ages and skill levels from absolute beginners to undergraduate fashion student.
“I strongly believe we can all benefit from time spent on a hobby or ‘making’ which helps promote a positive mindset.”
Friendly, helpful and inspiring, Deb has also published her first book, All Sewn Up By Debs, which looks at different creative techniques, and is dedicated to her “lovely, gentle, kind and funny” good friend Claire Vines who passed away earlier this year.
For more information visit www.allsewnupbydebs.com and look out for a new Shopify website coming soon.
ASKEWS FURNITURE CELEBRATES BEST OF BRITISH
Established in 1992, Askews Furniture is a second generation family-run business offering shoppers a wide range of stylish sofas, beds, living, dining and bedroom furniture, as well as a tasteful selection of accessories, including rugs, lamps and bedding.
In honour of their 30 years in business, owners Mark and Helen Lawrence are launching a new store in North Street, Horncastle which opens on 4th October.
Named Askews Best of British, the spacious new high street shop will champion the pick of British-made furniture, upholstery and beds, with a selection of home interior essentials on display.
“We pride ourselves on selling quality furniture from some of the best British brands.
“With our helpful, knowledgeable team on hand only should you need them, you can peruse in an easy going, no pressure sales atmosphere, while also experiencing a traditional level of service often forgotten in modern times. We look forward to welcoming new and returning customers to our new Horncastle store.”
Askews Furniture, which also has branches in Alford and Mablethorpe, offers a free “white glove” delivery service for all customers spending more than £500, which includes delivery by a two man team to a room of choice, assembly if required and all rubbish removed. Old furniture disposal is also available.
With a glowing reputation for quality and customer care, why not experience Askews five-star service for yourself.
For more information visit www.askewsfurniture.co.uk
Photographs: Mick Fox