The leader of Chester’s Business Improvement District, CH1ChesterBID, has hailed the positive impact that small and independent businesses are having on the city’s high street.
Carl Citchlow, BID manger, also urged Cestrians to support their city centre.
New traders from across Chester came together for a special ‘welcome event’ to celebrate the launch of their stores and to talk about the secrets to their success in spite of the current challenges facing the UK’s retail environment.
Seven new stores – which have all opened their doors in the last few months – attended the event, including: coffee shop Bean and Cole, botanical workshop Violet Palm, Italian restaurant Da Noi, as well as wine merchant and delicatessen Whitmore and White.
Carl commented: “Business rates, online shopping and Brexit are just some of the things creating a challenging trading environment, yet we’ve got some amazing new small and independent stores setting us up for a brighter future in Chester city centre.”
He added: “It was fantastic to be able to bring them together and we’re fortunate to have some incredibly ambitious and entrepreneurially-minded business owners making a big impression in the city.
“Their success is good news for everyone invested in the future of our high street and we’re keen to support them and to help them grow.”
Carl added that consumer behaviour has changed, and that the high street is evolving with it.
“These seven new businesses are great examples of that and what’s absolutely clear is that we have lots of traders that are doing well despite the current climate.
“They’re helping to change the face of our high street for the future.”
Chester’s popular appeal was again confirmed recently after a YouGov poll of more than 55,000 people across the country ranked it the fourth best city in the UK.
Only York, Bath and Edinburgh came above Chester in the list of 57 UK cities.
Carl added: “Chester’s appeal to both visitors and tourists continues to grow and is testament to the world-class customer experience our businesses deliver.
“However, their spending habits are very different to that of a local shopper and that’s why we are calling on Cestrians to do more to support their city centre.
“Our traders need local people to spend money with them and to take pride in their city centre.
“A visit to the high street offers an experience that you simply can’t get on a smartphone or a tablet, so we need people to get out and explore everything their city centre has to offer.”
Milli Ball – Flower Cup and Violet Palm
“We’ve always tried to provide something a bit different as a botanical coffee shop which makes people want to find us up on the rows and customer service has been key to create a loyal customer base.
“We have a great following of regular customers and its thanks to them we can continue doing what we love.
“Although we’re still a young business, we’re going in the right direction and the decision to open The Violet Palm was based on my belief that people want a unique experience from their local high street.
“We’re already running florist, ceramic, pumpkin carving workshops and lots more!”
Ian McArdle – Bean & Cole
“We want to provide great customer service in an atmosphere where people feel relaxed. We are passionate about coffee and have positive and knowledgeable staff that really contribute to that.
“There’s a bit of a cafe revolution in Chester at the moment and I think that’s a sign of the times – people want to go somewhere where they can meet up with friends, maybe do a bit of work on the go or just take a break and watch the world go by.
“If you can provide great customer service, I think you can ensure that people want to come back to you again and again because you just don’t get that interaction from shopping online all the time.”
Sam Ryley – Canteen Creative Productions and Tortoise
“I think we’re seeing a lot of originality on the high street in Chester, which is being driven by small and independent traders. It’s really exciting to be a part of that.
“Savvy business owners have realised that they need to create something different to entice people to become customers and to get them to return.
“Sitting back and waiting for people to walk through the door just doesn’t work in 2018 – you need to be creative and proactive in your approach and people will respond to that.”
Carrie Hyndman – The 2nd Floor
“The Love Local scheme has been brilliant and it’s another example of how Chester’s small and independent businesses are working together to support the future of our high street.
“I think people want more than just a retail experience these days, which is why we offer a variety of things in the store.
“We’re blessed to have such a gorgeous city centre where people want to spend their time, but we can’t take anything for granted.
“We have to work hard to convince people to stay longer and continue spending their money in stores like ours.”
Valentina Aviotti – Da Noi
“Chester felt like the perfect location for us. There are lots of international visitors who love how pretty the city is, so we’re proud to be a part of it now.
“The choice of restaurants here is very good too and the city is earning a reputation as a place to eat great food, so we’re really excited about the future.”
Joe Whittick – Whitmore and White
“Chester is absolutely stunning in terms of scenery and I think sometimes it can be easy to take that for granted, especially if you live locally and see it all the time.
“For us, it’s a great location to be and we think there’s a real market for a business like ours in the city.
“International visitors are great, but the key to success for us will be turning people who live in Chester and the surrounding areas into regular customers.
“We’re really looking forward to making our mark here.”