Independent shops are booming in Barnsley
Barnsley town centre’s retail scene is continuing to thrive, striking a balance between modern national brands and boutique independent stores.
The Yorkshire market town, fresh from a £210m retail and leisure regeneration project, is seeing a strong resurgence post-pandemic among its independent stores – perfectly complementing the new national brands.
Footfall in the town is ever-increasing, with the year-to-date footfall at 3,547,005 – a 31.55% increase compared to the same period in 2022. Quarter one of 2023 was 39.54% up year-on-year and quarter two was 25.87% up.
One of those enjoying the renaissance is Ashleigh Crosswaite, owner of Foster’s Little Book Shop.
Based in Barnsley’s resplendent Victorian Arcade, the bookstore started out as an online store before moving to physical premises in February.
“Books had begun to take over my home, so I visited Barnsley and the regenerated town centre before walking through the Victorian Arcade. The arcade was the perfect home for my business,” explained Ashleigh.
“A book shop ‘just fits’ here. All the other shop owners are so friendly and welcoming. Because of this atmosphere, the arcade is always busy, meaning the business has exceeded expectations.
Discussing the appeal of shopping in independent stores, Ashleigh said: “People like to pick up books. They want to know the size, text, feel of the books and imagine where they can read them.
“A book shop can be a place where people who don’t know each other will discuss their shared love of books. People like a place where they can enjoy what they enjoy with other people who do too.”
Ashleigh’s success is shared by Victorian Arcade neighbour Kingston Jewellers.
Celebrating five decades in business this July, the jewellers has called the Victorian Arcade home since 1981.
Owner, Sara Hunter, said: “Victorian Arcades are our heritage. They represent British tradition and history, and being able to play a part in that story is fantastic.
“Barnsley is a really friendly place. Everybody knows each other and will help each other out. We have a great variety of independent shops, more than lots of other towns. We feel very lucky to have ended up here.”
Barnsley’s retail scene is supported by a full programme of free town centre events, led by Barnsley Council. Barnsley’s Big Weekend, which took place earlier this month, was a huge success with almost 50,000 footfall recorded across the event.
“The Glass Works redevelopment has been wonderful for Barnsley, and the events are helping to bring in business”, continued Sara.
“We’re now getting customers from everywhere, many of whom say how they wish their towns were as nice as Barnsley.”
Cllr Robert Frost, Cabinet Spokesperson for Culture and Regeneration, said: “Shoppers are seeking an authentic experience and independent stores offer variety and the personal touch.
“Independent traders faced one of the most turbulent times in their history during the pandemic but are bouncing like never before. Shoppers are supporting independent retailers and I’m thrilled that footfall across Barnsley continues to increase and that businesses old and new are prospering.”
“The Victorian Arcade, and the independent shops within it, provide a fascinating contrast from the national brands available in the Glass Works. These two venues, amongst other great spots across town, combine to create a vibrant, family-friendly town centre.”