Axminster springs back with its comeback campaign, as first unit due to open at Trinity House
PUBLISHED: 08:00 15 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:55 15 June 2020
With an ardent drive to be moving on from the hindering impact of coronavirus, the traders’ group, Totally Locally Axminster, is mounting a ‘comeback’ campaign.
With growing confidence, organisers believe that Axminster stands a real chance of progression from the recent restrictions if the people of the town, and surrounding area, maintain their strong support for the town’s independent traders.
The group has coined a new slogan for this post-Covid-19 phase: ‘Shop like your High Street depends upon it… because it does!’
“No-one should underestimate quite how big an impact the lockdown has had, and is still having, on the town’s businesses,” said Totally Locally Axminster’s Barrie Hedges.
“It is not yet clear how many may not make it out the other side of the pandemic, and those in the hospitality sector still have a way to go before they can emerge.
“But there has always been inherent community spirit in Axminster. We saw it very much in evidence in our Fiver Fest and Christmas Trail a few months back and it has been very strong as Axminster Community Emergency Response (ACER) has put in place its superb support campaign.
“I think it will show itself in even greater measure now.”
This strong community spirit has also been recognised by Cllr Anni Young, Mayor of Axminster, who said: “When we came together to form ACER it was up and running almost immediately because there were already so many fantastic support networks in place.”
Acknowledging the impact on businesses, she added: “This pandemic has forced many shops and businesses to close, but things seem to be easing a little and we have a great Totally Locally group who will do everything to assist them in finding ways to promote their wares within the town.
“I urge all residents to support them to ensure that they can survive this crisis and continue to serve Axminster and the wider area.”
The timely reveal of the flagship Trinity House building, returning after a major refurbishment, is expected to add a welcome aesthetic enhancement to the High Street and it is hoped will help boost the town as it comes out of the crisis.
Keys of the first newly revamped unit at Trinity House are now in the possession of Louise Wall, who has been running Labels for Less, just round the corner in Victoria Place for the past 14 years. With the new premises there is a new name and rebrand to her ladies’ fashion store, which is now called Lou La Belle.
Louise said: “I jumped at the opportunity to take the first available unit in Trinity House because I very much wanted to be in the centre of town.”
“The work that Ian Styles (from Trinity House) and his team has done on the building is fantastic – the whole place just oozes quality.
“My new shop is half as big again as the old one and it gives me the space to add gifts and small homeware items to what I am offering.”
Lou La Belle opened its doors on Thursday, June 18 and Louise is hopeful her ladies’ clothing will be a big hit with local people.
She said: “There are a lot of people who want to buy fashion locally rather than travel to other towns or buy online.
“If we can build that loyalty right across the independent shops then Axminster has a bright future.”
As for the other units in Trinity House, its owner Axminster Property has revealed that five of the planned eight shop and commercial units in the revamped building are either let or under negotiation.
The company’s managing director, Ian Styles, said: “I see this as a new start not just for Trinity House but for Axminster as a whole. I firmly believe the town will now pick up again and move on as a great place to shop. It really does have a lot going for it in all sorts of ways.”
Supporting this thought, Totally Locally member Jane Rockett of Axminster Printing said: “Through the gloom of trying to get going again, there is an underlying sense that Axminster can move on from this with the right impetus within the community.
“It has been tough and a lot of us still face some big challenges given the trade that we have lost, but there is also some positive news right now.”
Jane said there would be a phased return to business, as traders would re-open at varying times, dependent upon the relevant Government advice and their own situations.
She further explained that traders are being incredibly conscientious in their approach to ensure the appropriate provisions are in place to make their businesses Covid-secure, with customer and staff safety being of paramount importance.
The traders have the full backing of Totally Locally Axminster, the group representing Axminster’s independent businesses, set up less than a year ago and has two successful loyalty initiatives to its name.
The group is well supported by councillors from across the political spectrum with, of particular note, the financial assistance of county councillor Ian Hall who directed £1,000 from his Localities Fund to help the cause as it plans a new round of initiatives.
“We can’t thank him enough,” said Barrie Hedges. “He has been alongside us from the start and we also have district councillors Sarah Jackson, Paul Hayward and Andrew Moulding all giving the trading community real hands-on support and encouragement.”
Meanwhile, Axminster Town Council has pledged its support for the group’s first 2020 initiative, an online ‘shopping mall’.
The concept is designed to complement the High Street provision and, incidentally, will also reach out to those who are self-isolating who may be unable to visit the shops.
Over the next few weeks, each local business will be given a ‘virtual’ opportunity and take a free page on the Totally Locally Axminster’s website - www.totallylocallyaxminster.co.uk
Shoppers will be able to search the site for anything they are looking to buy and are encouraged to ‘use the Axminster option first’.
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