'The buzz is back': town sees empty shops drop from 14 to three
PUBLISHED: 06:00 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 13:35 10 December 2019
A Norfolk town is showing how to fight back against high street decline with a scheme that has seen empty shops drastically reduced in number.
With one in five shops empty in some town centres, the transformational project in Holt is likely to turn heads in other communities.
The new pop-up shop scheme, put into action by Holt and District Chamber of Trade, has seen 11 shops that would otherwise be vacant getting a new lease of life.
Since Love Holt, the trade name for the chamber, implemented the scheme in July 2019, 11 out of the 14 shops that were vacant have been filled with new and local businesses.
Iain Wilson, the Love Holt lead volunteer, said: "In this last month we have seen eight openings including Tilly & Grace, Aurina, Blue Sky Estates, Cross Street Union Café, The Wandering Whelk, Folly & Rose, Follyology and Utopia The Unexpected Gallery.
"Each new opening brings a new lease of energy, optimism, shop frontage and product offer. A customer stopped me in the street last week and said 'Holt has got its buzz back'."
When a shop in Holt becomes empty, the landlord will be given the option to sell the lease to Love Pop Up, a registered charity, for £1.
The shop will then be opened with a pop-up business while the landlord finds a new tenant for the building.
Sarah Bütikofer, leader of North Norfolk District Council, said: "I think they have done a fantastic job and it just shows what can happen when a community comes together for the greater good.
"Each individual town will have its own unique way of trading and dealing with this but it's a brilliant idea, especially in a time when the internet is having a big impact on our high streets."
Mr Wilson said: "From time to time, vacant shops become available. For shops that are not listed, business rates continue to be a liability whilst the shop is vacant.
"This can put pressure on the landlord to find a tenant quickly and often an offer that does not add value to the town.
"Often these new occupants are charity shops, which as part of a retail mix is great, but too many could be an issue."
The first pop-up shop was Lottie Day, who designs and produces a range of screen printed textile products for the home, featuring original illustrations inspired by Norfolk.
Ms Day, who started trading in Hoppers Yard in July, said: "I have to say a massive thank you to Love Holt for inviting me to take part, as well as the other shopkeepers and of course the people of Holt who made me feel so welcome.
"The whole pop-up was a great success: it's definitely worth a try if your circumstances allow as it's a great chance to learn more about your business.
"It's certainly been a positive experience, my business is growing and we'll certainly be looking to return to Holt in 2020."
A prospective tenant involved in the pop-up scheme would pay £500 up front to Love Holt for the first three months in the premises along with any utilities bills.
Mr Wilson said: "For those looking to trial trading in Holt, or just simply have a short term three-month opportunity, Love Pop Up Love Holt offers a great low cost opportunity."
Andrew Pointen, the founder of Pointens Independent Estate Agents in Holt, which has two properties on the high street, said: "Love Holt is a brilliant idea, and it is a great way to encourage people to open their business in the town.
"It's great to see. Holt has really taken a turn for the better over the past few months."
Following the trial, the town is now actively looking for more pop-up traders. Applications can be made on the Love Holt website: www.loveholt.com/pop-up-holt