BACK OUR TOWN: 'It's difficult for independent shops to survive in Northampton with no big names'

Owners of St Giles Cheese Caroline and Steve Ward.
Owners of St Giles Cheese Caroline and Steve Ward.

Directions from Abington Street to St Giles Street and higher-end chain retailers could be the answers to improve our town, as suggested by our very own independant tradespeople.

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.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

Times like this need to galvanise us as a town. 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.

While their selection of more than 100 cheeses is impressive, there’s plenty more to St Giles Cheese than the name suggests.

Shelves filled with locally produced gin, cider and rum are proving extremely popular, while everything from oils, olives, chutneys and cakes are also on sale.

The shop was set up eight years ago after the owner, Steve Ward, was made redundant. He and his wife, Caroline, decided to take the plunge and put their passion for top quality food and drink into business.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

He said: "The benefit of shopping in independent shops is it is a much more personal experience.

"We become friends with a lot of our customers, we have time to chat, we know our products inside out and back to front.

"If people ask us a question - we know the answer."

The Wards have seen their business flourish over the years, becoming something of a Mecca for town centre foodies desperate to get their hands on some top class cheese.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures: Kirsty Edmonds.

But Steve said independent stores, like his, could struggle with the loss of footfall if big name shops continue to close.

"It’s difficult for the 'indies' to survive with no big names and we do need some big names.

"My initial responses to Marks & Spencer closing was sheer panic: I thought ‘it’s going to be the end of everything’.

"But then thinking about it from a selfish point of view, we will probably get custom from that.

"People have still got to work in the town and they use Marks & Spencer for lunch - they will have to look elsewhere and we may pick up some of that."

When the Kingsley couple opened their business the duo were hopeful signposts could be placed in other locations across the town centre to point shoppers to St Giles Street.

Mr Ward added: "It would be nice to see some direction from Abington Street up to here. We’ve been talking about getting some kind of sign since the day we opened and it’s not really happened.

"When we opened we joined all the retailer's associations, which have all come and gone and that was always one of the things that everybody said: 'wouldn't it be a great idea to have a sign pointing to St Giles Street'?

"I would love to see some of the more niche chains moving down here. Something like a Joules, they’re a better class of chain. At least it’s a nice thing to have," he added.

MORE STORIES FROM THE CHRON:

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

BACK OUR TOWN: 'We need signage on Abington Street to boost St Giles Street profile'

BACK OUR TOWN: 'Bring back free parking on weekends in the town centre'

CHRON COMMENT: Let's not mourn the loss of M&S in Northampton... let's back our traders