Axminster stands a real chance of moving on from the devastation of the coronavirus with growing confidence if the people of the town maintain their strong support for the town’s independent traders. The promise comes from the traders group Totally Locally Axminster as it mounts a ‘comeback’ campaign.
Set up less than a year ago and with two successful loyalty initiatives to its name, the group has a new slogan for the 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,” says 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 Xmas Trail a few months back and its has been very strong as ACER has put in place its superb support campaign. I think it will show itself in even greater measure now.”
The town also has the benefit of coming out of the crisis, with its flagship Trinity House building returning after a major refurbishment that will strengthen the High Street appeal. The rebranded Lou La Belle ladies fashion store opens in the first new unit on 15 June. Trinity House 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, says: “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.”
“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,” says Totally Locally member Jane Rockett of Axminster Printing. “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 it was evident that the traders that have been closed would come out of lockdown at varying times dependent upon the relevant Government advice and their own situations. “The consistent theme is that most businesses are being cautious and taking the issue of social distancing and customer (plus staff) safety very seriously,” she said.
Totally Locally Axminster launches into 2020 with support from councillors across the political spectrum. County Councillor Ian Hall has 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’ www.totallylocallyaxminster.co.uk. In the coming weeks, each business has the opportunity to take a free page within the site and to constantly update its offerings. Shoppers will be able to search on the site for anything they are looking to buy and encouraged to ‘use the Axminster option first’. The framework of the website is in place and traders are being urged to visit and build their own page via a simple ‘trader listing’ facility which takes a few minutes. The website will then operate in tandem with the group’s social media to promote individual businesses.