Sadness at closure of Higham Ferrers shop after 20 years

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A woman who runs a popular gift shop in Higham Ferrers has said she is touched by customers’ show of love for the shop after she announced its closure.

Cranberry House, in High Street, will close after 20 years at the end of March, or sooner if all the stock is sold in a closing-down sale that starts today (Thursday, February 1).

Owner Jenny Raynor said she has received hundreds of messages from past and present customers since she decided it was time to shut up shop.

She said: “When I set up 20 years ago, I didn’t think I’d be here this long but it’s been such a joy and our customers are so wonderful that we just kept going.

“It was emotional at Christmas when I made the decision to close - it’s very sad.

“I’m amazed at the response from customers. They’ve all been saying how sad they are to see us go. We’ve had cards and in one morning, 138 emails.

“There have been lots of messages on Facebook, even one from one of our old Saturday girls who now runs her own business.”

Mrs Raynor opened Cranberry House after spending 17 years living in California with her husband Chris, where she had a gift shop selling British products.

When she arrived back in the UK, she started selling Beanie Babies from a 20ft container. They proved to be so popular that she decided to open a shop in Cranberry Cottage and the business went from there.

In 2000, she moved to the current home, Cranberry House, in order to expand and extended her range to include jewellery, handbags and items for the home.

She was one of the first people in the country to start selling Yankee Candles and the company used Cranberry House to test out the popularity of new fragrances it introduced.

Over the past 20 years, Mrs Raynor said she has noticed a definite change in people’s shopping habits.

She has found that ornaments are less popular, as is branded crockery such as Wedgewood.

There has been less demand for photo albums because, Mrs Raynor thinks, people now store their photos on their phones.

At Christmas, she decided to take advantage of a break clause in the lease of the shop and made the decision to close.

She has seen sales fall by a third for the last three years, with the shop facing pressure from online retailers and the opening of Rushden Lakes.

At one point, Mrs Raynor employed 22 members of staff – now she is down to six.

She said: “Our footfall has really dropped and I think that’s a reflection of a more affluent society - people get in their cars now and go elsewhere.

“The shop has come of age now. I’ve been busy preparing for the closing-down sale so that’s taken my mind off it a bit.

“My husband and I are hoping to travel and spend more time with the family and grandchildren.

“I won’t have to get up at 5am anymore to do the gardening before work!”

Mrs Raynor paid tribute to the team who works with her, in particular her business associate Loraine Anstey, who has worked with her for 20 years and manager Karen Matuszkiewicz, who has been with her for 14 years.

She said: “I just couldn’t have done it without them.”

Customer expressed their sadness at the news on the shop’s Facebook page.

Dawn Girardi said: “Such a shame... a great loss for Higham”, while Sue Dennis said: “The closure of Cranberry House will be a major loss to the town. Wishing you all well and thank you for the last 20 years.”

Yvette Keable said: “Your shop will certainly be a big loss to the community. Thank you for all your wonderful window displays throughout the years, wonderful products and of course your wonderful staff. Wishing you lots of happiness.”