Hat trick for town centre shops

Published Friday, 11th March 2016
Town and city awards
Town centre businesses celebrate receiving the award. Left to right: Tracy Parker (RiDO), Karen Carr (La Bella Lingerie), Andrew Birks (Andrew's Butchery), Bernadette Rushton (RiDO), Katie Cheetham (Baby Blossom), Deborah Bullivant (Grimm & Co)

Rotherham town centre has scored a hat track after being recognised for its diverse mix of independent shops.

Rotherham was named both category winner and overall winner in the Association of Town and City Management’s (ACTM) annual awards held in London this week, with judges also acknowledging the support being given to entrepreneurs in the town.

The award is the third the town centre has received in recent months, recognising the continuing efforts to revitalise the town. In December, the High Street beat off strong competition to win the Great British High Street competition (Town Centre category) and in February Rotherham’s Tuesday market was named Best Large Outdoor Market award in the National Association of Borough Market Authorities awards.

Now, the ACTM has formally recognised the efforts being made by partners to provide a variety of retail offerings in the town.

As well as coming first in the Diversifying the Business Mix category, ahead of Coleraine and Dunloghaire, Rotherham was also named overall winner of six categories, beating off stiff competition from Derby, Camden and Walsall who were winners in their own categories.

Judges said they were impressed with the range of opportunities provided to entrepreneurs and the cluster of independent businesses that have helped revitalise the town’s retail offer.

Shanaaz Carroll, Interim CEO of the ATCM, said: "The ATCM National Awards are instrumental in providing recognition for the valuable programmes and projects that are being delivered by dedicated professionals to improve our high streets and town and city centres.

"The overall standard of the entries this year was really high and has once again highlighted the quality and variety of projects that are being undertaken. To win an ATCM National Award is a great achievement and recognition for the hard work, dedication and creativity that each person and each partnership has put in."

The awards focused on projects such as the Vitality Grants Scheme and Business Development Grants, which provide funding to new and existing businesses, as well as the Pop-up Shops scheme and The Makers’ Emporium outlet.

Sixty-six makers, artists and crafters have so far been supported at the Makers Emporium since it opened in April 2014, helping them to test-trade, learn the art of retailing and grow their business.

And the town now hosts four pop-up shops which offer 12-month supported trading, rental increments and bespoke business advice.

Nineteen-year-old entrepreneur Katie Cheetham owns the Baby Blossom Boutique pop-up shop, which opened in Sept 2015.

She said: "There would be no way I could have set up my shop if it wasn't for the Rotherham Council’s Pop-up Shop scheme. I’ve had continued support from both them and Rotherham Youth Enterprise from the beginning in establishing my business and I am very proud that I can contribute to the unique and independent shopping offer in Rotherham Town Centre."

The last year has seen a number of new partners contributing to the High Street revival with the Arts Council and local supporters funding the pioneering children’s literacy centre and unique retail store Grimm & Co which opened at the end of February.

More than 11 new businesses have opened and are continuing to trade successfully in the town centre thanks to assistance and support via the Vitality Grants Scheme whilst eight town centre retailers have benefited from the Business Development Grants scheme within the last four years which has helped them to grow their business and enhance the shopping offer.

Rotherham Council’s Advisory Cabinet Member for Jobs and the Local Economy Councillor Denise Lelliott said the award was another example of the excellent work being done by partners to regenerate the town centre and encourage more visitors to the town.

She added: "There’s never been a better time to visit the town centre, and our latest award reflects this. With improved public transport following a £7m investment in buses, thriving indoor and outdoor markets, and variety of local and national retail units including established businesses, and independent shops with their unique offerings, I would encourage all local residents as well as those living further afield, to come into the town centre and see for themselves what we have to offer."