An open and shut case on high street for small and big retailers

Co-owner Michelle Samat has opened a new shop, Lollyrocket, at 54 Gold Street, Kettering, with a tea room opening soon.
Co-owner Michelle Samat has opened a new shop, Lollyrocket, at 54 Gold Street, Kettering, with a tea room opening soon.

There has been a string of high profile business failures in recent times with household names such as Woolworths, Comet and JJB disappearing from the high street.

With the latest news that Blockbuster and HMV have been placed in administration what future is there for the high street?

According to latest figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC), 11.3 per cent of shops are now empty.

It is not all gloom, however, with independent shops and traders taking the plunge and opening on the high street. Lollyrocket, in Gold Street, Kettering, opened in November and business is “better than expected”.

The brainchild of Michelle Samat and Hayleigh Folwell, Lollyrocket is a homeware and gift shop with a vintage feel.

Michelle said: “We started by doing home parties and craft fairs but we’ve both always wanted to open a shop and so far the support has been great.”

Michelle said the pair wanted to open somewhere they would get a lot of people walking past and because the shop had been empty for a year they managed to negotiate with the landlord on the rates. She added: “We’ve had no support from the council and finding out things is a minefield, but people have been very supportive and it is going better than we expected.”

They are opening a vintage tea room in the shop in the next four to six weeks, and plan to rent the upstairs to small businesses who sell hand-made art.

An established shop with a different story is Rocky Road Music, which has been trading in Corby for more than 40 years but is now closing and moving online.

Owners Ria Bower and Danny Hern have been trying to sell the shop for a year but have had no interest, and are closing the doors for the last time on March 2.

Ria said: “We took over in 2006 and for a couple of years our figures kept going up, then we heard the word recession and it suddenly dropped off. Supermarkets have started selling guitars cheaper than we can buy them for and with the internet as well there is too much competition.

“The council putting the rates up by a third was the final nail in the coffin.

“We have halved the size of the shop, diversified as much as we can and have put a lot of ourselves into this. Danny especially works very long hours, but in the end you can’t work for nothing.”

Ria and Danny will run Rocky Road Music as an online business from their home in Uppingham and are moving the hire and repair business, which is thriving, there as well.

Ria said: “We’re going online and keeping the phone number and email address so people can always get in touch with us for help as before, but we’ll have no real overheads.”