Back of the Inns gets back on its feet

A busy Norwich street which has suffered a bleak period of shops closing is getting back on its feet thanks to the arrival of several new stores.

Back of the Inns, which continues into Castle Street, has seen more than five shops shut in the past year.

However, despite the street still having empty units, there are signs of it getting back on its feet. Homeware and accessories shop People Tree, which has branches in Holt and Wells, opened last Thursday.

Manager Jane Dunbar said: 'Although we haven't been open long, things have been good so far, a lot of people have been coming in.

'The area has a high footfall. There are always a lot of people on the street. It is a shame the other shops have closed down; I hope people move into those units soon.'

Jewel Nation closed in February after its parent company, Family Jewels, went into administration, and was followed by Panasonic in Castle Street which shut in April after its operator, Bennetts, called in administrators. However, one of Virgin Money's first high-street banks is to open this autumn in the former LK Bennett store.

Retailers in the street expressed concern about the turnover of shops.

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Gemma Joyce, manager of L'Occitane, said: 'It's nice to be down the little lanes. It fits in with our authenticity and it is a nice area.

'I wish places would stay and that there wasn't such a high turnover of shops. We do get a lot of people come in who say they didn't know we were here. I think more people are shopping online, but as far as I'm concerned we are not going anywhere.'

Vintage homeware and gift shop Knotty Green closed on June 2.

Shop assistant Beth Skitmore, who worked in Knotty Green, said: 'It is really sad seeing it go, our hearts were in the shop.'

Miss Skitmore said that although there were a lot of people walking down the street, they were walking past and did not come into the shop.

City centre partnership manager Stefan Gurney said: 'Back of the Inns is a very strong offering in the city.

It is different to The Lanes because it is not as boutique. It is the small, independent stores which add to the vibrancy of the city. I think the larger retailers understand the value of having a different offer of shops in the city. Back of the Inns has a large level of footfall.

'We need to find new and innovative shops to fill the empty units. I would like to see them filled with shops whether small independents or national chains. We would accept anyone who wants to invest in the city and be a part of it. It all adds to the mix of the city.'

Shopper Paul Martin, 47, an IT technician from Brundall, said: 'It doesn't look good having all these shops closed round here.

'We have two large malls which take away the business from the smaller shops forcing them to close. The council could help by lowering business rates.'

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