Norwich Blue Jean Company shop to close
Norwich Lanes is losing one of its flagship stores – and the word from independent retailers in the city is united: 'Use us or lose us'.
The closure of The Blue Jean Company on Lower Goat Lane, which follows on from the closure of Cult Clothing on Swan Lane, has sparked outcry from traders in the city's main independent shopping area. Many fear that further closures could happen in the coming months.
Mo Walker, spokesman for Lower Goat Lane and co-owner of The Rock Collection in Norwich Lanes, said: 'We are all shocked at the news that Blue Jean will be closing its doors. In many cities around the country independent shops have been pushed out by larger chain stores. Norwich has such a vibrant independent shopping area which is the envy of many other cities. It would be a shame to lose this variety of shops and businesses just because people forget that we are here.'
Norwich Lanes stretches from Upper St Giles, through Pottergate and Lower Goat Lane, along Bedford Street to London Street and the area boasts a variety of shops, cafes, restaurants and hair and beauty salons.
Debra Knowles from Soho Hip on Pottergate said: 'The independent shops in Norwich Lanes bring uniqueness to the city, but people forget that we are here. I've been running Soho Hip for six years and I still get people coming in the shop thinking that the shop has just opened!
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'The independent shops offer something different to the high street. Soho Hip has a range of designer clothes and accessories that are worn by celebrities and feature in all the top magazines. These cannot be found anywhere else on the high street.'
Jarrolds has been an independent department store in the city since 1823. It is also a member of Norwich Lanes because it believes that independents give a better shopping experience to shoppers.
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'Norwich is a vibrant and busy shopping destination due to the irresistible mix of high street shops, department stores and independent shops,' said Jane French from Jarrolds. 'It is these independent shops that give Norwich its unique recipe of offering something for everyone.'
Roger Pemberton, chairman of the Norwich Lanes association, said: 'It has always been our aim to remind shoppers of the importance of the variety of retail opportunities in Norwich. However, at times like this it is also important for us to point out that the independent stores are particularly vulnerable. Norwich Lanes needs shoppers to use them or we face the risk of further closures in the coming months. Please take the time to enjoy our area and spend some money with us rather than in the chain stores.'
The variety of unique and sometimes locally-produced fashion, books, gifts, home accessories, food and drink on offer from our independent shops and businesses help to make shopping in Norwich streets ahead of other cities. And many shoppers also enjoy the sense of community the shops and businesses in Norwich Lanes bring to the city's shopping experience.
Henry Layte, owner of independent book store The Hive on London Street, has just won a national award for the best independent book shop. He says that this proves that there is still a strong demand for independent shops on the high street.
'Independent shops are vital to the success of the high street. The mix of independents and bigger chains makes Norwich a great place to shop, such is the variety that is on offer. And independents offer more than that. They offer good customer service and are willing to go out of their way to get a rare or latest item or give advice where it is wanted. You don't get this level of service in the main high street stores – they just don't have enough people who know the shop and its stock inside out.'
What do you think? Write to Evening News letters at Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For highlights from Norwich Fashion Week's Catwalk Show – see Life Matters, pages 26 and 27.
Don't miss all the Norwich Fashion Week events in the city which are celebrating local independent retailers and businesses in the city. For more information about Norwich Fashion Week visit www.en24.co.uk/nfw.