The retail landscape in Nottingham is changing, but for the better or worse? Independent store workers tell Chrystal Jones why they think the loss of such large retailers will only benefit the city and make it a more unique shopping experience.
With large retailers like Debenhams, River Island and Topshop closing in Nottingham City Centre, there’s potential for the retail landscape to change.
The city might be losing its attraction for a strong shopping experience, but could this mean that independent stores might thrive in their absence?
Owners of Wild Clothing and Five Leaves Bookshop, as well as team leader at Hopkinson Vintage, all situated in Nottingham, hope that the loss of these large retailers might make way for a city dominated by independent stores.
But, with the loss of such large and popular retailers, there’s potential for it to affect footfall.
“The big chains bring people into the city,” says Shaun Hoolan, owner of independent vintage store Wild Clothing.
“So, although they aren’t normally a massive threat to us or competition, people often find us after coming to town and wandering out to Hockley, so this might have a negative impact,” adds Shaun, 51.
Alex Townley, 25, has a more hopeful view for independent stores: “With chains and franchises closing, people are almost forced into shopping more independently and sustainably,” says Alex.
As the team leader at Hopkinson Vintage, Antiques and Art Centre, Alex is very keen for this to be an opportunity for people to get more involved in shopping sustainably.
“People are becoming more resourceful, so independent stores like this will thrive in this movement,” adds Alex.
Ross Bradshaw, owner of Five Leaves Bookshop, hopes that with buildings losing such large chains renting them might mean rent in the city could fall in general.
“This would mean prime shopping areas would become more affordable to independents,” he adds.
Shaun says that there’s also the expectation that customers will be desperate to come to town to enjoy shopping in a way that’s not just online despite his fear of a loss of footfall.
“Although people have turned to online shopping, I think they are missing that whole shopping experience since it’s been taken away from them,” adds Shaun.
“I also think the public have more of an affection for indies at the moment, where the shopping experience is not the same online as with large chains,” he suggests.
Both Alex and Ross say the same, finding that people are more inclined to shop at independent stores to support local businesses, especially after the pandemic, as well as to enjoy shopping in a more traditional and social environment.
Although it may seem that the retail landscape in Nottingham is declining, these independent stores think it’s only developing for the better.
“The range of retail in Nottingham is so broad, like Sneinton Market. There’s so much available, and I think when we reopen, we’ll only notice a positive difference in our popularity,” says Alex.
They all hope for Nottingham to become more saturated with independent stores if large retailers are closing.
Ross hopes for it to give Nottingham more of an identity: “I want it to feel like Nottingham, not just any town,” he says.
Shaun thinks that it only seems natural for the amount of independent stores to increase in Nottingham.
“We won’t get an independent store filling up the space of the Debenhams building, but I do think that with these shops closing we’ll start to see more independents in the city,” adds Shaun.
Although Nottingham is losing some crucial retailers, it doesn’t mean that the city will start to decline in popularity.
“The high-street is not under any threat, especially with unique shops like ours,” says Shaun. “It might be different to what it was, but not in a bad way.”