BACK OUR TOWN: 'Empty shop units could now be used for regular craft fairs to support independent businesses'

Owner of Peppertrees in St Giles Street, Megan Eyles, says craft fairs could be held in empty units to help smaller firms get their businesses off the ground without paying steep business rates.
Owner of Peppertrees in St Giles Street, Megan Eyles, says craft fairs could be held in empty units to help smaller firms get their businesses off the ground without paying steep business rates.

As part of our campaign to get more shoppers stepping foot inside Northampton's independent retailers, tradespeople have told us what should be done to improve our town.

Times like this need to galvanise us as a town. That’s what the boss of Northampton’s town centre Business Improvement district told the Chronicle & Echo this week after learning Marks & Spencer was on the brink of pulling out\.

Megan says that big name shops bring in the footfall, which in turn, help the small businesses. But M&S in Abington Street is now at risk of shutting for good.

Megan says that big name shops bring in the footfall, which in turn, help the small businesses. But M&S in Abington Street is now at risk of shutting for good.

So we are urging the good people of Northampton and our local authorities – not to let our high street dwindle.

Our hope over June is to shine a light on those independent stores, tucked away in arcades or side streets many of you may not realise exist.

Megan Eyles, 24, of Abington, took over ownership of Peppertrees card and gift shop, in the Ridings Arcade, back in 2016 using her savings, after she had worked in the shop for two years prior.

She said she has always strived to keep the shop open as, she believes, Peppertrees has always been a core part of independent retail in this town who offer ‘in-depth knowledge’ about their stock.

She said: “Northampton has a great variety of independent businesses, from cafes to gift shops, cook shops and restaurants.

“Each member of staff has great knowledge, passion and time about each product they sell, which add to the customer experience – something you don’t find in multiple chains.”

But even though Megan believes the independent retailer scene in the town centre is good she thinks the borough council could be giving small businesses a helping hand too.

She added: “Personally, I don’t think the town would benefit from another eatery or hairdressers.

“But other independents such as a children’s boutique could be a great idea or exploring the idea of a craft fair by using an empty unit for crafters to sell their wares on a regular basis.

"This would be a great way to showcase what other talent independent businesses have in Northampton that just can’t afford to run a shop with the rent, business rates and utilities as well as helping the town with unoccupied units."

Megan Eyles.

Megan Eyles.

Owner of The Magic Bean Emporium Michella Dos Santos, in St Giles Street, is shutting her doors for the last time this summer.

Talking to the Chronicle & Echo earlier this month she said it has been a "particularly tough year" and has only been made worse by the opening of Rushden Lakes, which she says has led to a drop in footfall and "one of the quietest Christmas' for Northampton in years".

Megan agreed. She added: "Footfall has really dropped considerably in the last year. In my opinion, which I mention over and over again, getting the footfall back up is unfortunately left to the council – getting those big name shops back into the town centre is a must if Northampton is going to survive.

"Big name shops bring in the footfall, which in return helps the small businesses. I hoped that Rushden Lakes it would give the council the kick they needed to make the town still the place to come for shopping but unfortunately I think it’s gone in totally the wrong direction."