Mary Portas "makers" a famous return to Rotherham

Published Wednesday, 16th April 2014
Mary Portas with retailers from Makers Emporium
• Mary Portas (third left), with members of the Rotherham Town Centre team and The Makers Emporium staff at the official opening

Rotherham has received the Portas seal of approval after the retail guru returned to witness the continuing transformation of the town centre.

Mary, who first visited the town in September 2011 as part of her Portas Pilot scheme, returned on Tuesday April 15 to officially open the Makers Emporium on High Street, see the progress being made through the town’s Portas Pilot project and meet with some of the retailers who have contributed to Rotherham’s shopping renaissance.

The Makers' Emporium will offer low cost shared and professionally managed retail space to a mixture of makers, crafters, artists and designers. The project focuses on providing locally designed and hand crafted items with an array of pieces available to suit all tastes and budgets.

Initial products for sale include handmade bags and clothing, quality skincare products made from local honey, home-ware, recycled metal art, gifts, and hand crafted fine silver jewellery.

"I’m bursting with pride at everything that’s been achieved in Rotherham," said Mary.

"The town team have done an extraordinary job increasing footfall and reducing vacancy rates but most of all producing a place people want to shop in and feel at home in.

"They have huge competition from some of the UK’s biggest shopping malls right on the doorstep but they are bearing out the national statistics that People Prefer High Streets."

Council Chief Executive Martin Kimber, said: “Rotherham has made a real impression on Mary. She was full of praise the first time she visited us and we’re seen as a real beacon of success for the Portas Pilot.

"The money we received from the national Portas Pilot scheme in autumn 2012, which was then matched by British Land, has enabled the expansion of the support initiatives that have helped our existing retailers to grow their own business, raise their standards and help deliver a first class retail offer.

"Thanks to the funding, we've seen new businesses, including Vintage Dolls and the Makers' Emporium, spring up, and a range of initiatives which have helped to increase foot fall in the town, as well as raise the reputation of the town centre.

"Our success has come from the simple but effective idea to build a unique and quality shopping offer, based around Rotherham’s historic town centre, and which is so different to the area's larger shopping centres such as Meadowhall and Parkgate.

"This work has involved focusing on making Rotherham 'the independent alternative' and providing unique retailers and a quality customer experience.

"The Makers' Emporium is just part of this, and it is hoped that over time many of these entrepreneurs will grow, branch out and eventually have their own shops within Rotherham."

Funded by the High Street Renewal Award and delivered in partnership between the Council, The Source and Rotherham Youth Enterprise, The Makers' Emporium aims to support new start-businesses looking to trade for the first time, raise awareness of their products and see what it takes to run their own business.

Whilst in Rotherham Mary Portas also met some of the retailers who have launched or expanded their presence within the town centre, and those that have benefited from training funded under the Government’s Portas pilot scheme.

Assisted by funding from the Portas Pilot initiative and High Street Renewal Fund Award (for which Rotherham won the lion's share of a national fund), partner organisations in Rotherham have worked together to both attract new businesses into the town and help existing businesses to reach their potential.

Financial incentives and grants, mentoring, training and providing low-cost flexible trading space have all been part of a five-year plan to rejuvenate the town’s shopping and leisure opportunities.

The past three years have seen encouraging increases in the footfall figures within Rotherham, with an overall 13 per cent uplift in shopper numbers. This has been during a time when many equivalent sized UK towns have seen trade decreasing.

Rotherham has also seen a decrease in empty shops on key shopping streets to just 11 per cent and over 85 new businesses have opened in the town centre since 2010.

Surveys of shoppers have shown that the unique, quality shopping offer is finding favour across the area and putting Rotherham town centre firmly on the map. Key findings include:

  • 75 per cent of respondents now state that Shopping is the main reason for visiting the town centre – compared to 35 per cent in 2009.
  • 35 per cent of shoppers said that the main reason for visiting is that Rotherham has a good range of shops they liked compared to only two per cent who said this in 2009.
  • 92 per cent of shoppers are satisfied or very satisfied with the independent shopping offer (compared to 42 per cent in 2009).