Following the recent harsh portrayal of Scunthorpe through Channel 4’s Skint, Insight with Passion’s Kate Hardcastle headed to Scunthorpe for the day in order to see the real Scunthorpe, those who are working hard on the high street to keep their businesses, and the town alive.
How this happened?
Anyone who has ever been to one of my seminars will have heard me reference wise tips in business from my much beloved Nan.
I spend my life reassuring people about business. The answers don’t have to be complicated. The jargon does not need to be confusing but common sense and passion must prevail.
After working with forward thinking travel group (Advantage) on a series of seminars, I made acquaintances with the managing director of Kuoni Travel Group, Derek Jones, who via social media laid down the gauntlet asking me if I could make Scunthorpe appealing. It would have been easy to ignore but always one to accept a challenge I was intrigued.
Why was Scunthorpe the punch line in a destination joke?
What was it doing so wrong?
Or was it just Nan’s old adage; had the book been firmly judged by the cover?
I had visited Scunthorpe as a child and didn’t have lasting memories of the town either way, but the comment on social media, and throughout my network alike, led to a clear understanding that Scunthorpe not only has bad press but can seemingly put off potential visitors from afar.
Could the truth really be that bad?
So squeezed in between seminars in Las Vegas and client work in Dubai I headed with the Insight with Passion team to a number of businesses, some recommended through social media and some just starting out.
On approach Scunthorpe has nothing to be ashamed of and has plenty of greenery. I can recall towns and cities (worldwide) with more unpleasant journeys in.
The first port of call for the day was Ashby, where I met an individual that could put a lot of six figure earning retail gurus to shame, for his lasting dedication and drive to open up his own retail store in a small high street that had been bustling throughout his childhood but declined in recent years.
Andrew Drakard doesn’t have an innovative or ground breaking concept; he just wants to make sure his business thrives with great customer service for young and old, providing great gifts.
Nothing so Earth Shattering there – so why the high praise?
I was there to open the 2nd store, in a business that only started last year.
Andrew ran his store during the day and after closing worked in a bar every night during the initial months his business was getting up and running.
Let me assure everyone reading this; there are much easier ways to make money than retail! Everyone working on the High Street today was talking about the positive future of the High Street. Nearly 70 million people live on this “postage stamp of an island” and this is something I recommend a lot more people start believing in and working towards making this happen.
After visits to stores with similar values in Ashby (Ribbons & Bow and Ashby Arts) we drove through the beautiful surrounding countryside to the Pink Pig Farm. On arrival, in luscious green surroundings, I heard children’s laughter, saw them having fun, and instantly understood why I was parked in an overflow car park. Success!
Sally, the proprietor of this amazing business, has created a destination for family, food and fun with quality at the heart. I was there to present the Customer at the Heart Award. Another award to add to the collection of honours and rewards Sally and the Pink Pig team display proudly on the café wall.
On offer in the mini-deli style supermarket is a selection of rich and quality food produced on the farm. This leads through to the Pink Pig Café full of happy customers.
As I sat with the youngest customers at the free activity table, they told me all about trips on a pink tractor (Sally ensures brand consistency at all times) and exciting adventures through the farm trail. I could easily spend half a day here at the Pink Pig Farm.
So could I wrap up here for the day and go- job done? Well no. I would only be criticised for not visiting retail in the town centre itself.
With generous offerings of exotic sauces, expert cookware, gorgeous gifts and stacks of freshly made cakes, Richard and Gillian are proud owners of the Delicious Café. And rightly so! After just 2 years of business they have re-invested in a brand new kitchen. They are strict on quality control and live by the desire to deliver delicious food.
Speaking to Richard who has had businesses in the area for the last 10 years, I praised everything I had seen in Scunthorpe so far today, but asked one question that was front of mind; was the message of Scunthorpe clear enough to outsiders and being communicated with joined up writing?
What do I mean by this?
The UK has a rich cultural heritage and the High Street evolution I talk so frequently about needs to begin to create destinations of social interaction combined spaces of living, retail entertainment, education and local facilities. In my opinion, they need to stand for something. They should give a sense of who they are going to be moving forward merged with a celebration of their history.
All of the businesses we met in Scunthorpe deserve to be pride of place on the high street. They can help to deliver the future of town centres but need a collective’s full support and guidance.
If your appetite is whetted, let me tell you about a number of other businesses we met this afternoon:
Queen Bee is a beauty salon. It may be chic and small but my opinion is of the quality and standing that would feel at home in Kensington. Innovative, beautifully decorated and with a full appointment book; this blow dry bar come manicure parlour come spa treatment purveyor has worked incredibly hard to deliver a fantastic service at an outstanding quality.
Fallen Hero is a menswear boutique that I urge every Independent Retailer to visit, observe and understand their best practice. The fantastic buying eye behind the business Des Comerford has created a retail heaven. A store that is appealing and engaging. It maximises the multi channel approach with its recently launched click and collect service and offers a great brand story. Less of a fallen hero, Des is a hero of the Scunthorpe High Street.
A dynamic, enthusiastic and knowledgeable team of people pull together to create the Asian experience that is Tradewinds. I can’t imagine there is any delicacy that is not available here. With large stores of stock and every shelf stacked high throughout the shop floor remains clean, neat and enticing.
My favourite thing about visiting Tradewinds was that an elderly customer who has waited behind, to ensure she was able to speak with me, in order to confirm that Tradewinds did indeed have the very best customer service.
How many other High Street retailers can say their customers would do that?
Celebrate Party Store
Other places we visited throughout the day included Celebrate Party Store that appreciate and admire Scunthorpe so much they have created a range of chocolate bars displaying photographs of the town and slogans such as “Scunny’s biggest fan.” They also offer a wide range of fancy dress ideas, party tokens, traditional English sweets and a variety of American goodies.
Nathalie French Dress Shop
Natalie French is the occasion wear shop with outstanding customer testimonials and known for going above and beyond in order to ensure that the customers dress is perfect on their special day.
North Lincolnshire Museum
The North Lincolnshire Museum offers free entrance, daily activities including drama sessions, arts and crafts, games and more. Perfectly combining education and fun for visitors. The customers choose all the exhibits throughout the museum too. The “Up the Highstreet” exhibit that is currently running at the museum offers a great look back in time to how Scunthorpe High Street used to look.
“I will be back in Scunthorpe.”
When time allows, I will be back in Scunthorpe as a customer. I will book an hours treatment with Queen Bee, buy clothing gifts for friends and family from Fallen Hero and stocking up for an at home Asian delight from Tradewinds. Along with spending time browsing the high street and the businesses that we were unable to see this visit.
Does Scunthorpe need better marketing? Does it need more tourist attractions? Does it need a better balance of High Street names alongside the Independents that thrive there? Absolutely.
Are there a few dark and dingy corners with the usual collection of betting shops, pawnshops, and pound shops? Yes.
Can you spend a really enjoyable day with unique offerings, great people and fantastic customer service? Defiantly
Parking is cheap, if not free and a visit to the town could be linked with a visit to surrounding locations. I have made at least 14 new business associates, if not friends today, increased my network and reassured my personal belief that UK town centres are alive and thriving.
The moral of the story – don’t mock something until you have tried it.
The businesses visited were;
Alexandra Gifts, Ashby –
Alexandra Gifts stock an eclectiv collection of gifts and goodies, which are handpicked, unique and reasonably priced.
Ribbons and Bows, Ashby –
Ribbons and bows offer a number of products including women’s clothing, hat hire and haberdashery and are celebrating their 20th Birthday later this year.
Ashby Arts, Ashby
Ashby Arts are suppliers of both local and renowned artists work.
Pink Pig Farm
Pink Pig Farm is a family day out in the countryside surrounding Scunthorpe, offering a farm trail, pink tractor rides, fun & games, café and farm deli.
The Delicious Café offers a tea- room and freshly baked goods along with small gifts all from local producers.
North Lincolnshire Museum
The North Lincolnshire Museum offers free family entertainment and exhibitions.
Tradewinds Oriental Store
Tradewinds have selected the finest foods and products from the Far-East available.
Natalie French offer bridal and occasion wear and are highly recommended for their customer service.
Celebrate Party Store
Celebrate providie the best in Fancy dress, personalised chocolates, specially imported American candy, Helium and stuffed balloons, Greeting cards and much more.
Is a boutique beauty salon offering hairdressing, manicures & pedicures, spa treatments including massage and facials. They have recently been commended for being a salon of excellence from Estée Lauder.