Independent shops are vital to the high street, according to Swindon’s vintage clothes and home wares store Carry on Vintage.
Carry on Vintage, which is in Swindon’s Brunel Centre, is celebrating its first anniversary of trading, aptly just at the tail-end of July’s national Independent Retailer Month where independent stores across the country are recognised for their contribution to the high street and the economy.
The store, which opened on 1 August 2013, was initially a temporary ‘pop-up’ shop run by owners Steve and Alicja Stuart, who were previously selling their wares at conventions and specialist markets. The reception they’ve received from Swindon shoppers over the last 12 months has led them to remain past their initial five month tenancy and start building plans for future expansion.
Steve explained: "The business started out as a hobby, collecting anything vintage, including clothes, home wares and furniture. Our house was starting to look like a 70s sitcom so we started doing markets for fun and to try and clear out some of our collection to make room for more. We knew Swindon didn’t offer much in the way of vintage and so from there we decided to open up Carry on Vintage. It was a bit of a gamble as we didn’t know how we would be received.
"The first year has been a big learning experience and at times it has been difficult as we’ve been finding our feet. Running your own shop is hard work, we’re in the store seven days a week and when we’re not here we’re looking to buy and preparing stock.
"The support from the Brunel has been invaluable though. The Vintage and Retro Festival held at the centre earlier this year opened up the town to the styles and fashions – and demonstrated that vintage has a place alongside modern. When we opened, the Brunel’s management team also helped us set up the store and allowed us a flexible lease so we could make sure the business would work.
“Independent shops add to the high street and support the big names too. There is definitely an appetite for vintage in Swindon and I hope we’re proof that pop up shops do work, draw shoppers in and so keep other stores alive too. Our plans are to continue growing and perhaps hire staff and move to a larger shop in The Brunel. Vintage shopping is now a mainstream thing and so we have to be on the high street.”
Steve Fawke, General Manager at the Brunel, added: “Having a wide variety of different types of shop is the key to a busy shopping centre. We recognize that independent shops are often a vibrant addition, but as they often grow out of hobbies as Carry on Vintage did, they can need a helping hand so, where we can, we are prepared to be flexible with our business terms to give them the best start possible.”
To find out more about the independent retailers at The Brunel shopping centre visit www.thebrunel.co.uk.