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‘I’m completely gutted. I have put everything into it’ - Norwich gift shop at risk of closure

PUBLISHED: 15:39 14 August 2018 | UPDATED: 08:40 15 August 2018

Philip Hazlehurst, owner of White Rabbit Gifts on Castle Meadow in Norwich, which is at risk of closure. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

Philip Hazlehurst, owner of White Rabbit Gifts on Castle Meadow in Norwich, which is at risk of closure. Picture: SOPHIE WYLLIE

SOPHIE WYLLIE

“Make sure you support the high street.”

That is the plea from the owner of an independent gifts store at risk of closure.

White Rabbit Gifts moved from Bishop Bridge Road in Norwich - its home for two years - to Castle Meadow in the city centre six months ago.

But owner Philip Hazlehurst, 31, from Sprowston, warned the business might have to close permanently within weeks if trade does not pick up.

He said: “It is getting to the point where I might have to claim bankruptcy. I’m completely gutted. I have put everything into it. It has been incredibly hard work and it is quite upsetting.”

The business owner blamed the problem on fewer people spending money on the high street and lack of support from other businesses, despite his attempts to bring them together.

As well White Rabbit Gifts, the three-storey Castle Meadow unit includes Boys Bits, which sells gifts for men.

Boys Bits, run by Mr Hazlehurst’s partner Jason Kittle, 45, would continue to trade online if the businesses left the Castle Meadow shop but White Rabbit Gifts could not continue its online operation.

Mr Hazlehurst, who makes and paints ceramic animals which are part of his shop offering, said: “When we were on Bishop Bridge Road people said it wasn’t the best location. To ensure people could get to us we moved into the city. It was a big gamble and it was very expensive.

“Unfortunately the gamble hasn’t been beneficial for us.”

The monthly rent for the smaller one-storey shop in Bishop Bridge Road was £600, compared with £1,000 on Castle Meadow.

“The feedback we get from people is they love the stuff we sell. They are items they have not seen before and are unique,” Mr Hazlehurst said.

“People are not spending money though and it is quite frustrating.”

Items he sells in White Rabbit Gifts include cards, jewellery, colourful bags and coasters. A lot of his stock is animal-based.

Mr Hazlehurst added: “We would love to be able to work with other businesses on Castle Meadow but they are not interested.”

Following a Facebook plea explaining the situation at White Rabbit Gifts, there has been an upsurge of support.

No extra staff are employed at White Rabbit Gifts and Boys Bits.

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