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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox, Painting by David Work
Featured in the December 2013 issue

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Creating a better experience for shoppers and businesses is top of the festive gift list – as a Lincolnshire market town prepares for Christmas.

Gainsborough traders are urging people to take a fresh look at the town and see how it has been developing in recent months, by checking out some of its latest arrivals.

New and expanding businesses have breathed extra life into the town centre itself and also boosted the mix in Marshall’s Yard, while niche players on the fringes continue to find their products and services in increasing demand in world markets.

Gainsborough town manager, Samantha Dodd said people may be unaware of recent changes and the efforts which are underway to bring different areas of the town closer together. Samantha co-ordinates the Town Partnership – which is made up of representatives from local businesses and organisations.

“Our aim is to improve Gainsborough and get it to a place where it is more economically viable,” she said.

“The group is made up of retailers, people providing professional services, manufacturers and even market stallholders. We want to grow the partnership, which meets every six weeks, and get more people on board.

“It’s about sharing ideas and looking at ways in which we can put initiatives into place because we want to get more businesses to come to Gainsborough, as well as to support the ones which are already here and we want to help to boost visitor numbers.

“Gainsborough is picking up. From talking to businesses, we have discovered that traders are feeling more confident or starting to see improvements. We feel there is a bit of momentum out there,” said Samantha.

There has been a perception that some parts of Gainsborough are more vibrant than others, but Samantha said everyone is working together to tackle that misconception.

“In September, we had the first Gainsborough Food Festival jointly run by West Lindsey District Council, the Town Partnership and Marshall’s Yard. It was a full-day event which drew everyone together and it was well supported,” she said.

Samantha said: “That was a good example of the fact that events are attracting people to Gainsborough. This is a priority and we are working on other ideas to bring extra people in during 2014.

“The partnership is looking at the wider promotion of Gainsborough to visitors and others because we believe the town has massive potential and good attractions, such as the Old Hall, and we want to encourage more people to come and see them.”

Earlier this year, Oldrids took its name to Gainsborough town centre, when it moved into Lincolnshire Co-operative’s store. Other recent arrivals in the town include Eezy Home in Market Street, which moved into a vacant unit, and musical instrument shop Swanky Beatz, which is based in Church Street.

The florist All Seasons, in Lord Street, expanded earlier this year and All Occasions in Trinity Street has also breathed new life into formerly empty premises.

Newer enterprises have added to the mix of longer-established stores in the town, such as Horsleys – a furniture, flooring and beds retailer – which is based in two sites in Church Street and which has been trading in the town for more than 100 years.

The Old Magistrates Court site is in the process of being transformed and making the way for a new KFC restaurant and the Old Guildhall in the Elswitha Quarter is being demolished.
Gainsborough has maintained its traditional market which takes place in the town centre on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

Samantha added that Central Government funding is now available in the form of a grant scheme to assist new and existing businesses, which can apply for help to improve their shopfronts and, in turn, the general appearance of the town.

It’s eight months since Oldrids made its move and took over Lincolnshire Co-operative’s store in the heart of Gainsborough (as well as the Society’s Moorland Centre in Lincoln), with the aim of gradually introducing shoppers to a wider range of brands and Oldrids’ customer services.

The move by the family-owned business boosted a portfolio which already included its department store in Boston town centre and Downtown outlets in Boston and on the outskirts of Grantham.

Managing director, Annmarie McClintock said: “We wanted to provide a full line department store and improve the mix of products for customers, by expanding our home and furniture offer.

“Our new products are now available and we are halfway through work to enhance the store’s décor. We also want to build on the initial offer which we have introduced to people in the Gainsborough area,” said Annmarie.

She said customers had given the retailer a warm welcome.

“They have been especially pleased about our electrical and cookshop departments. We are really proud to have installed a full range of electrical goods, at the suggestion of staff, and offer everything from iPods to televisions, Hi-Fi systems and large fridge freezers,” said Annmarie.

“We have also had a positive response to the new fashion lines which we are stocking, such as Seasalt and SuperDry. Bringing in younger fashion brands has helped to broaden our selection of clothing and it reflects our determination to provide something for all ages.”

When Oldrids moved into Gainsborough it took on thirty-five people, but the retailer has since increased its team to thirty-eight staff.

“We are extending our opening hours over the Christmas period and working with the town manager and Marshall’s Yard to ensure that Christmas in Gainsborough is a more festive experience for our customers,” added Annmarie.

Marshall’s Yard also continues to develop apace and has hosted a number of initiatives over the past few months, as well as welcoming new arrivals. The shopping complex has had an eventful 2013 which has seen a significant increase in visitor numbers. The centre is going from strength to strength and consumer confidence is definitely on the rise, say managers.

Retailers at the centre are reporting extremely positive trading performances throughout the summer months, compared with the previous year. One clear factor in this has been the good weather and the fact that shoppers can buy according to the seasons.

Marshall’s Yard assistant centre manager, Alison Hall said its annual events programme has also been hugely successful due to the mild weather. Visitor numbers increased over the summer months, with events such as the Continental Food Market, Italian Market, monthly Farmers’ Markets and other themed events, attracting families and couples looking for a day out with free attractions and plenty of shops to enjoy.

Commercial interest in the centre is strong and it is fully let. Earlier this year a £650,000 investment was made, which entailed flipping the DW fitness centre to first floor level, creating two new units on the ground floor. These were immediately occupied by Mountain Warehouse and the remaining unit is shortly to be opened by the popular discount retailer Poundland, just in time for Christmas.

The centre also saw independent stores, The Wool Room and Sweet Traditions open this year, bringing something different to the retail mix for shoppers. Since the switching on of the Christmas lights on 15th November, the countdown to the festive holiday has been gathering pace.

“It’s been a really busy twelve months at Marshall’s Yard and we’re looking forward to some exciting projects in the year ahead,” said Alison.

“We’re working closely with the town partnership to transform Gainsborough into a visitor destination, building on a fantastic traditional market and exciting events programme to continue to draw visitors to our local businesses here.”

Next year is set to be another exciting one for Marshall’s Yard with an action-packed events and entertainment schedule, great seasonal promotions in stores, further development of the monthly markets including Country Living Markets running throughout the summer months and exciting partnership projects run in conjunction with the town centre, to strengthen Gainsborough as a visitor destination.

WORLD CLASS AND NICHE
Gainsborough is home to major and niche businesses which are helping to take the area’s expertise and products to world markets.

Names to note include stainless steel emissions specialist Eminox, golfing giant Ping, fancy dress business Smiffy’s and Racetorations.

Eminox invested in a multi-million pound move to a new Lincolnshire factory on the Corringham Road Industrial Estate this summer.

It came after the company had chalked up twenty-five years in Gainsborough and managers said that it sent out a “very positive message” for the business, the county and British engineering as a whole.

The company outgrew its previous premises a couple of miles away and has relocated to a facility which has given it thirty per cent more manufacturing and office space.

The company supplies products to major international original equipment manufacturers, such as Volvo, Volvo Penta, Irisbus, Caterpillar, Liebherr and Iveco and also serves the retrofit market.

Think parties and fancy dress and R H Smith & Sons (Smiffy’s) is probably the first name that springs to mind. This busy Gainsborough firm supplies colourful costumes, crazy wigs and wild accessories, packing and dispatching more than 75,000 products every day of the year.

Overseas sales to forty-two countries account for almost £18 million of its £50m turnover and the company looks to continue expanding its international horizons.

With offices and showrooms worldwide, Smiffy’s maintains it headquarters in Lincolnshire, whilst its creative team is based in Leeds in Yorkshire. All packaging is designed in-house. About 1,000 new products are introduced each year.

Head of UK and international sales, David Wain said: “As the leading fancy dress, Halloween and carnival manufacturing company in the UK, we distribute nearly 5,000 products to over 5,000 stockists around the world.

“With over 26 million items shipped every year, we really are a one-stop shop for dress-up retailers.”

Specialist car restorer Racetorations started trading in 1987. Twenty-five years on, it is based in its third unit on the Heapham Road Industrial Estate.

GAINSBOROUGH OLD HALL
Visitors to Gainsborough’s Old Hall often say “it’s amazing” – but then this landmark attraction is not just about history; it is also an excellent meeting place where you can chat with friends over an appetising snack or buy a different style of gift.

The Hall, which stands in the middle of the town, is over 500 years old. One of the best preserved medieval manor houses in England, it was built by Sir Thomas Burgh in 1460, the Burghs being a rich and powerful family at that time.

The Old Hall is now owned by English Heritage and managed by Lincolnshire County Council, but the Friends of the Old Hall was established in 1949 to save the building from decay, and to open it to the public. It still has an active role to play, being involved in all aspects of the building alongside the current curator employed by the county council.

Once inside the visitor can be overwhelmed by the contents, walking into a huge and impressive Great Hall, and then moving on to an original medieval kitchen. It is easy to imagine the comings and goings of the family and its retinue during the Hall’s finest hours. Famous past visitors have included Richard III, Henry VIII, John Wesley and the Pilgrim Fathers.

However, today’s visitors can expect an easier time and explore with the help of interpretation boards and multi-media guides offering a unique insight into the history and collections inside the Hall.

There’s a chance to catch your breath and revive your stamina by popping into Chambers’ Coffee Shop on the ground floor. It sells a wide range of teas, coffees and snacks.

The Old Hall site co-ordinator, Kimberley Vickers said: “The coffee shop is fast establishing itself as the perfect place to enjoy coffee and cake in the town. We have a lot of regular customers who always praise how friendly the staff are and how delicious the cake is. It’s always lovely to see members of the community enjoying the site and choosing it as a place to have a catch up
with friends.”

People are invited to round off a visit to the Hall by checking out its well-stocked shop. The goods on offer include a variety of toys and games for children, as well as books on local history and a beautiful range of jewellery.

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