One of the recommendations made following my visit to The Old School, Dumfries earlier in the year was the need to enhance awareness of activities being undertaken inside the building.
Located slightly away from the town centre, the premises themselves delivered little indication that they provided accommodation to an interesting variety of small businesses.
It was pleasing to receive today the following comment and photographs from Rachel Speedie of The Art Room, one of the businesses operating in The Old School building. Rachel is helping to coordinate improvements to business vitality within the building.
“I just wanted to show you what got installed today at The Old School in Dumfries, apparently they can be seen from Brooke Street, but also DGOne & the Lidl traffic lights too!
So THANK YOU!! None of this would have been possible without you…Rachel”
The entrance to the premises are to the left-hand side of the building, immediately off the access road to the customer car park.
Signage has also been installed on this facing of the building, further developing the opportunity to inform a wider audience about the presence of this small oasis of business activity.
Other businesses involved are: Blusha, Make-Up and Hair Specialist; NonaLou’s Tea room, Cafe and Coffee Shop; Dumfries School of Dance; B Beautiful by Beth and Brighteye Design & Branding.
It is easy to pass through Thornhill without full appreciation of the selection of retailing gems operating from this attractive small town close to Drumlanrig Castle.
With free parking, public toilets, tearooms, cafes and hotels the number of shops may be relatively small, but the service provided and variety of products sold is large.
From the intriguing setting of Thomas Tosh, a cafe-gallery-retailer-venue based in the historic Old Parish Hall building in East Morton Street to the fashion delights at Voila and 101 Boutique time spent in Thornhill can certainly enhance the shopping experience.
Helping satisfy those seeking interior design and home accessories BQA Gifts, operated by The Buccleuch and Queensberry Arms Hotel, provides a wealth of intriguing items for the home and A1 Curtain Design deliver the skills and materials to compliment any home.
Hillhouse and Hunter have retained the traditional setting of the original business within their family run hardware store and, at the end of West Morton Street, Antiques at Zitan dislay original Chinese elegance for the home.
Of the ten businesses originally advised under the Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme 8 are still very much in business, one is closing down due to retirement ( the owner is now 84 ) and another, The Happy Potter Ceramic Cafe, is now Latte Da Tearoom.
All in all Thornhill sustains an intriguing mix of retail opportunity highly reliant on attracting customers seeking the service, quality and setting available. In addition on-line accessibility of many of the businesses concerned adds further dimension to individual business opportunities helping to sustain the businesses in the longer term.
In a recent follow up visit to Dalbeattie retailers who participated in the original Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme it was pleasing that many of them were feeling considerably more positive about their trading vitality.
Whilst there had been some shop closures in the town it is likely that it was not the economic climate alone that had contributed to their demise. Other businesses had invested and reports from those who had implemented improvements following the initial recommendations were very positive.
Whilst many of the participating retailers had taken advantage of the Let’s Talk Shop grants scheme to help introduce recommendations many were now waiting for implementation of the Shop Front Improvements Scheme to enable more robust external improvements to be undertaken.
One major improvement to the gateway impact of the town was the investment being undertaken at the Pheasant Hotel.
The dilapidated condition of the premises at the time of the original visit reflected poorly on the town and it is hoped that the major investment underway to create the Birch Tree Inn, Restaurant, Bar and Hotel will materially improve the arrival impact whilst increasing the number of bed spaces available, a positive step forward for tourism.
Excellent street sculpture elements within the enhanced public realm in Lockerbie, a great talking point.
Of the retailers originally visited it is pleasing that all but one are still providing great service to the local and visitor community although the traditional haberdashery shop Wightmans is now an Opticians.
In addition the co-operative Project Art has recently relocated its displays into Elegance making way for a new venture in the double fronted premises being vacated by them by opposite the Town Hall. Indications of a new, and very appropriate, business venture opening soon.
Two of the businesses have also expanded their offering with additional ground floor space made available at Elegance (Gift Shop) and expansion to include the adjacent shop unit at Anne Maries (Fashion). Curvaceous has relocated to smaller, but no less suitable, premises and the refurbished Margaret’s (Post Office) is also looking great, as are all of the others businesses involved in the Let’s Talk Shop Programme.
There are still a number of empty units in high visibility locations but the town felt vibrant with the enhanced public realm in the town centre providing a pleasing and visually attractive setting.
In Gretna all of the original retailers visited continue to provide to the needs of their community and great to see positive changes at Bliss (Hairdressers), McKenzies ( ex Post Office now gifts and cards), Springfield Post Office and J Kerr & Sons (Butcher). All businesses were holding their own against the draw of the nearby Gretna Gateway.
Aspatria Farmers Ltd is an agricultural co-operative formed in 1870 by a group of West Cumbrian farmers who were disillusioned with the quality of products they were being supplied and the service they received from the local agricultural suppliers in business at that time.
Since then they have diversified their product range into a number of sectors including domestic pet and equestrian supplies, household products, gardening, clothing (leisure, workwear, equestrian), footwear and amenity products (for use on golf courses, forestry, football pitches, industrial sites, etc).
What is not as well recognised as it might be is that Aspatria Farmers is open to the general public and that the values of “quality, service, price” established in 1870 continue to be upheld.
Change is in hand at Aspatria Farmers and our Shop Doctor will be working with them to help ensure that they successfully continue to meet the needs of their membership whilst maximising their retail store opportunities and reaching out to a wider customer base.
Read comment from Retail Gazette about the announcement made today by The Digital High Street Advisory Board of a five year strategy to reinvigorate the UK’s traditional high streets.
The Advisory Board was established in April 2014 to further the work of the Future High Street Forum.
Click here for link to Retail Gazette article
Spending this week visiting 20 more retailers in Dumfries engaged in the Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme funded by Dumfries and Galloway Council.
Another very interesting selection of shops all contributing positively to the diverse range available in the town. More to follow.
An evening retail workshop focusing on best practice in relation to visual merchandising and overall shop presentation is to take place on Monday 17 November at the Cairndale Hotel, Dumfries.
In this latest visit to Dumfries, in addition to the workshop, the Shop Doctor will be working with up to 32 independent retailers who will not only be receiving an advisory visit in the new year, but a mystery assessment visit between now and Christmas.
This is the final stage of the Shop Doctor Support Programmes for Dumfries & Galloway Council that will have seen some 232 shops across 15 towns visited and in receipt of one-to-one advice since March 2012.
For further information, please contact Grant Coltart on email@example.com
There has been considerable activity in Whitehaven over recent months to assist retailers to recognise and maximise opportunities to attract and retain customers in the increasingly positive retail environment within the town.
Ensuring that shops present themselves in a manner that engages customer interest is a critical issue, particularly in the lead up to Christmas. To help identify such opportunities, The Shop Doctor has been invited to provide a Retail Workshop to retailers in the town focusing on key aspects of visual merchandising.
In advance of the workshop, The Shop Doctor will also be reviewing how customers might perceive the town and its shops. He will also engage retailers attending the workshop in discussions about issues that impact on the creation of positive first impressions and how any negative issues might be overcome.
The workshop will be taking place on Tuesday 11th November from 6pm until 8pm in the Education Suite at the Rum Story.
Spaces are very limited, so to enquire about availability, please e-mail Rachel.Rudd@cforlp.org.uk or call 01900 825213.