Independents leading the way

Words by:
Melanie Burton
Featured in:
August 2013

The historic south Lincolnshire town of Grantham is ideally situated to attract visitors from far and wide, with good major road links and an East Coast main line train service.
But the question traders seem to ask themselves every week is where have all the shoppers gone?

It isn’t through a lack of variety in the town – it has an abundance of long-established independent retailers – nor can it be because of a low number of visitor attractions as it has a long and varied history.

Still it seems to be an uphill battle for traders to pull the crowds in to help boost the local economy. It is an issue that is being addressed both by the shopkeepers and the council alike.

David Charles, owner of Grantham Computer Centre in Guildhall Street, decided to find out for himself. He carried out a survey asking shoppers their shopping preferences, behaviour and frequency, and the results were very interesting.

It showed that 50 per cent preferred to shop at local independent retailers rather than at supermarkets or major high street chains and 26 per cent expressed no preference between the two.

The average number of times people shopped from independent retailers was 2.3 times a week – just slightly lower than at supermarkets at 2.4 times a week.

The survey also highlighted the fact that 39 per cent of people actually shopped more at the independent retailers than supermarkets/major high street chains compared to 40 per cent the other way around.

One of the top three reasons that would make people support local independent retailers more than they do now is if prices were cheaper or more competitive.

“People think independent shops are a lot dearer than supermarkets but that idea is wrong,” said David, who has run the business in Grantham for more than twenty-three years.

“It is a question of making people realise that the tremendous overheads these bigger shops and stores have mean they have to charge more and though they might get a slight discount on some prices, not all of them are cheaper.

“If we can get that message across, people will begin to realise for themselves so I say to them come and check our prices out and see.”

David’s next step is to form an Independent Retailers’ Association for the town, to create a united effort to increase footfall into Grantham.

He has written to other independent retailers asking for their support and putting forward ideas to address the concerns. These include forming an action group to working with the council to see how to improve poor areas of the town centre; a retail day where members can do something extra for their customers; and the creation of a customer charter which all shops will adhere to.

“Only by working with each other can we turn the tide. The recent retail survey I did showed 77 per cent of people thought retail chains were cheaper than independent retailers. We need to re-educate them,” said David.

South Kesteven District Council is also trying its best to address the situation. Shopfronts in the town have had much-needed makeovers thanks to a shopfront regeneration scheme funded by SKDC and Grantham Growth Point.

To date there have been eight projects which have been successfully completed costing £32,641, with a further five set to be completed in the near future costing another £63,381.

The scheme, which launched in 2011, has targeted businesses in and around the Market Place and Narrow Westgate as part of the Shop Front Grant Scheme which aimed to help improve premises whilst at the same time retain and enhance the character of the town.

SKDC’s portfolio holder for economic development, Councillor Frances Cartwright said: “The shopfront scheme is just one of a number of important initiatives to encourage more people to visit Grantham and help new and existing businesses to thrive.

“We have put money into these projects because we want to do all we can to support local businesses and as a result make Grantham a more attractive place to live and visit.

“The Shop Front Grant Scheme has made a big difference to the appearance of the town and I am thrilled that local business owners have seized this opportunity.”

The latest project to be completed in Grantham was Grantham Appliances in the market.

Landlord Mr Robert Hodgson said: “We are happy with the scheme and think that it shows a proactive approach from the council to improve the local area. The scheme benefits everybody.”

Hoppers Jewellers is another independent retailer that has been part of the Grantham retail scene for nearly eighty-seven years.

Established in 1926, it is Grantham’s fourth-generation family jeweller, with a reputation for quality, value, trust and service.

With two shops in the town – one in the High Street and its head office in Watergate – the business has fared better during the economic recession than a lot of other similar retailers up and down the country.

But proprietor Fiona Hopper feels more needs to be done to regenerate the town.

She said: “Grantham needs a bit of an injection and investment to keep the town thriving because it is a lovely little town.

“It has a lot to offer and is in a good geographical area. But we need to be loyal to our businesses and ensure our quality of service remains high.”

Hoppers is in a fortunate position having two shops catering for two different types of market.

Its High Street shop offers branded fashion jewellery and watches, whereas its Watergate shop caters for the higher end of the market.

“Our customers are very loyal to us and like the personal one-to-one service that independent retailers can offer,” said Fiona, who now gives talks to groups and organisations in the town.

“It’s all about putting a face to the name. If they know who you are they know you have the right credentials.”

Grantham town centre is South Kesteven’s largest town centre and is focused along the High Street, Westgate, Guildhall Street and the Isaac Newton and George Shopping Centres.

The George in the High Street is a ‘boutique’ shopping and business centre with a mix of both smaller independent retail outlets and high street names.

It stands on the site of the old George Hotel – once an impressive local hostelry built in 1780 – and still retains many of its fine features including the Oriel windows, carved staircase and cornices.

In 1990 the site was converted into the indoor shopping centre we see today, using the architectural splendour of the former hotel, which is now a listed building.

Although the George Hotel was built during the reign of George III – following a fire which wiped out many properties in that area – there had been a hostelry on the site for at least three centuries before that. As a coaching inn, the George was a popular overnight stop between London and the North, endorsed by Charles Dickens who in ‘Nicholas Nickleby’ described it as one of the finest inns in England.

Grantham is home to one of the largest music stores in the East Midlands, Simmonds Music, and recently they have expanded by opening the 5th Leg recording studio within the premises. The studio is situated on the second floor and is large enough to record a choir or instrumental ensemble as well as bands and solo artists. There are state-of-the-art facilities and one of the best sound engineers in the business. The recording space is fully equipped with a drum kit, keyboards and a piano, and amplifiers for guitars.

Simmonds noticed there was a gap in the market for this service, and so far the response from musicians has been incredibly positive. The music scene in Grantham is thriving, with many bars catering for live music, so Simmonds Music get many enquiries from local bands who want to make demo CDs. The studio can also be hired as a rehearsal venue, and they offer packages for any aspiring musicians who want to record some tracks onto CD, which makes an ideal birthday present.

The is also the offer of a corporate package for voiceover work, so if there are any companies that require this service, they can meet every need. The studio is also in negotiation with the local radio station, Gravity FM, to present a live lounge slot on air for any aspiring bands.

If you would like any further information on the services the studio offers, contact Tom Simmonds on 01476 570700 or email

Whether it is two wheels or four, Grantham Honda is the place to visit. Their car and bike showrooms are located on Spittlegate Level and are home to the latest range of new cars and bikes. Sitting alongside is one of the widest selections of approved used cars and bikes in the region.

The dealerships are proud to be part of the local community and Chris Taylor, their managing director, is local born and bred. Grantham Honda really is a local firm, employing local people and providing a service to the local community.

They are proud to be one of the most successful groups in the UK, the one area where ‘National’ becomes important. The nine car dealerships and one bike outlet account for a significant amount of Honda sales and over the past seven years have seen significant growth.

Visit and you’ll also see in action a busy service department which not only looks after cars from Honda but all manufacturers. Whatever the make of vehicle, the level of service is the same, each and every time.

Situated alongside the car dealership in Grantham is a very successful Honda Bikes dealership. Grantham Honda Bikes is one of Lincolnshire’s leading bike retailers. Home to the latest range of Honda bikes, together with an extensive range of quality approved used bikes.

The service department is home to a fully qualified and experienced team of technicians, who work on Honda and all other makes of bikes. An approved MOT test facility, together with a collection and delivery service and courtesy bikes completes our service offering.

Great product is nothing without exceptional customer service and our enthusiastic and professional sales and service teams, all of whom are keen bikers, will ensure you find exactly what you are looking for.

Grantham Civic Society has its own plans to mark the 75th anniversary of the Mallard’s world speed record.

It has established a new project to create an information signboard at Grantham station highlighting the Mallard steam locomotive and its record-breaking run; the coming of the railway to Grantham and the building of the railway station; the great railway disaster of 1906 and the electrification and the passing of the steam age.

East Coast Trains, which runs Grantham station, has expressed interest as has South Kesteven District Council.

The society has donated £1,000 for the creation of a pencil draft so work can begin on the illustrations and it is appealing to other clubs and societies in the town which would like to see Grantham’s history marked in this way to contribute financially to the project.

The Civic Society works hard to ensure that Grantham’s famous sons and daughters are honoured in the town through its Blue Plaque scheme.

One such person from history is Arthur Blissett who was born on the outskirts of Grantham but was part of Scott’s team on his first voyage to the Antarctic.

He has been mentioned in several books about the expedition and also in the Royal Geographical Society journals published at the time of the expedition.

But his name wasn’t known in Grantham until Jane Handsley, who hails from the town, highlighted it after reading an article in the Lincolnshire Life magazine about her relative, Jesse Handsley, who was also part of the expeditionary team.

She conducted a lot of research and contacted Grantham Civic Society to see if a Blue Plaque could be erected in the town as a tribute to Arthur.

That could now be happening at the end of August or beginning of September.

“What a great team effort. It could not have happened without each of us, so thanks to Lincolnshire Life and Courtney Finn of the Civic Society for being interested in my research,” said Jane.

“I hope Arthur would be very pleased to have his story told and displayed prominently in his birth town.”

Courtney Finn added: “Arthur Blissett was born at No 48 Manthorpe Road but the road was renumbered early in the 1900s and it is now No 30.

“The renumbering was discovered in a 1906 Kelly’s Directory and we looked at the 1886 very first large scale map of Grantham and discovered that No 48 was the present No 30.

“A Land Registry search located the owners of the house and the owners were delighted to hear about Arthur Blissett and gave permission for a blue plaque to be erected.

“Our Blue plaques and information signboards demonstrate what a historic place we live in. The information they give provides interest and information for townspeople and visitors alike.

“The story is not complete and we have other distinguished Granthamians to honour in the future as more funding is achieved.”

It’s time to take a fresh, new look at Grantham Beauty Clinic. Established on Vine Street, close to the town centre, since 1978, the business has always had a philosophy of discovering innovative new products and treatments to offer clients from leading brands such as Guinot, Decleor, Caci Ultimate and Jessica Nail Systems. Book an appointment and you will be treated by Grantham’s most experienced CACI therapists, specialising in CACI’s renowned Non Surgical Face Lift. The clinic is also a Clarins Gold beauty salon. This year, some of this focus has been turned onto the business itself and exciting plans are well underway with a rebranding and refurbishment of the salon and a new website to complement the transformation.

These achievements have won the salon the accolade of being winner of the Independent Retailer 2013 at this year’s Grantham Journal Business Awards.

Grantham Beauty Clinic offers a full range of facial and body treatments including a wide range of luxurious facials to replenish and reinvigorate. Holistic therapies, teeth whitening and tanning are all tailored to your requirements by the highly qualified and friendly staff. Relaxing and revitalising, a visit to Grantham Beauty Clinic will help make the most of being you. 2013 is looking to be a stunning year for Grantham Beauty Clinic.

Excitement is building in Grantham as the town prepares to take part in the 75th anniversary celebrations of one of the most famous steam engines ever.

Thousands of people are expected to turn out to enjoy the sight of the magnificent Mallard steam locomotive when it comes to Grantham in September.

As part of the events celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Mallard’s 126mph speed record – set just outside Grantham at Stoke Bank – the famous steam engine will leave its usual home at the National Railway Museum at York and go on show in Grantham, close to the railway station.

Director at East Coast, Tim Hedley-Jones said: “We’re proud to support this exciting event, close to Grantham station, as a celebration of a landmark moment in the history of the East Coast Main Line.

“The locomotive’s record-breaking run at Stoke Bank was a marvellous achievement which reflected the prestige and importance of this railway to the nation.

“It is entirely appropriate that the Mallard will be back in Grantham, for the first time in half a century, as the centrepiece of this wonderful celebration of our railway heritage.”

Councillor Colin Davie, executive member for Economic Development at Lincolnshire County Council, added: “Over the coming years, Grantham will play a major role in driving economic growth within Lincolnshire. The arrival of the Mallard will bring the national spotlight to the town, giving us a valuable opportunity to get the message out that Grantham is open for business.”

As well as the Mallard, a host of other attractions have been organised which will form a festival in Grantham over the weekend of 7th and 8th September.

There will also be historic exhibits on the ‘Story of Speed’ featuring the chance to view the Mallard’s high-speed diesel successor, a Deltic locomotive.

Other attractions will include 1930s streamlined racing cars inspired by the Mallard design, an exhibition on how Britain’s first high-speed railway was created, as well as miniature train rides for children.

The event’s major sponsor, Carillion Rail, is providing the track. Other organisations such as East Coast, Network Rail and the National Railway Museum are also on board.

The Mallard A4 Class steam locomotive set the record at Stoke Bank on 3rd July, 1938.

Plans are also being prepared to have the recreated carriage interior of the ‘Old Gentleman’s Carriage’ on display – the same carriage used in the film The Railway Children.

South Kesteven District Council’s portfolio holder for Grow the Economy, Councillor Frances Cartwright, hopes the event will also serve to show people all that Grantham has to offer.

“The Festival underlines Grantham’s brilliant location on the UK’s fastest north-south rail route and emphasises the wider economic opportunities for businesses looking to relocate to Lincolnshire with its rich engineering heritage,” she said.

“We will certainly be making sure that our VIP guests see the sites we have available and understand all the advantages of locating here.”

Mark Davies, managing director of Carillion Rail, said: “The 1938 record was a great British engineering achievement and can help inspire today’s engineers to excellence. We are pleased to help local partners create this Festival.”

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