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13 May 2024

Independent businesses in Leicester have praised the “uniqueness” of the city and its "vibrant" atmosphere after the news that M&S was set to close drew a...

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18 Apr 2024

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Leicester indie retailers defend ‘special’ city centre after M&S announces closure.

Posted on in Business News

Independent businesses in Leicester have praised the “uniqueness” of the city and its "vibrant" atmosphere after the news that M&S was set to close drew a raft of negative comments about the city centre. 

chocolate shop

Though M&S named changing shopping habits as the cause for its proposed closure, comments from others ranged from "too many vape and chicken shops" and "expensive" parking to harsher criticisms such as feeling “unsafe” because of "too many beggars and druggies" or that the city centre simply had "nothing" to attract shoppers.

But Leicester has a thriving independent sector with a wealth of "pretty special" small shops that many cities would envy.

Leicestershire Live asked indie shop owners what they believed the city had to offer and what improvements they would like to see. They praised Leicester's many unique shops and urged people to visit and support them.

Peter Gardner, owner of Cocoa Amore, said:

“There are pros and cons where you live everywhere. There are a lot of businesses here that are pretty special, and people ought to come and try them. We have such a problem in Leicestershire of not shouting up the good and whining about the bad. The positives outshout the negatives. If you speak to some of these coastal towns who have lost everything and are desolate - these business owners are campaigning just to get a bank on the high street. Here we have access to banks and help from the BID. We are so spoilt in how multicultural we are.

“I've never wanted to run a business anywhere else. Leicester is my city. I want to build a business that Leicester can be proud of. I want to be ethical and sustainable on our pricing and keep our prices affordable and for good value. When we look at our chocolates that come in from farmers all over the world, they should be more expensive than a bar of Dairy Milk on the high street.”

Edina Zoltai, manager at Just Fair Trade, which sells fairly traded gifts, homeware, toys and more next door to Coco Amore, said the city would benefit from more independent businesses to add to the many the city already boasts.

"We do have lots of uniqueness, and when you think of other cities, that is what we need more of," she said. “I think in this sector we can offer a much more personal and much nicer service than big chains. That’s why a higher percentage of our customers are regulars.”

Sisters Tracey Brewill and Juliet Hooper run Brides of Bond Street, a family-run business that has been around in the city for three decades.

Tracey said: “The one thing we hear from our customers is that they do not feel safe being here. It’s the begging and the drugs. I think it's more people wanting money off you. It can be intimidating.”

As the shop takes regular deliveries of dresses and gowns, lorries have to drive through the city centre to get to its delivery area. Juliet said: “The looks that you get from people and the animosity you get from people with it all being pedestrianised. There are not enough signs to say vehicles are passing on this road.”

However, the pair were adamant that independent shops can still thrive in the city. Tracey said: “We have to keep pushing the fact that there are some nice independents down here and try and get people to support independents. You have got to support the shops or there won’t be a high street.

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