Earlier this year the chancellor George Osborne unveiled his vision for creating a 'Midlands Engine', part of the government’s plan for a Northern Powerhouse. I believe, however, that we have already started to lay the foundations of an East Midlands Powerhouse in Chesterfield, not least in our retail sector.
I was delighted that we were able to recognise and honour this thriving sector recently at the Retail Awards. This year we had many more businesses nominated by the general public as well as some of the faces from last year’s awards returning to defend their titles. Even with a bigger venue this year at the Winding Wheel, the event was still a sell-out showing the huge support and pride in these awards by the business community.
We must not underestimated the power of Chesterfield's retail sector. It is one of our major plus points as a destination. Where other towns and cities are struggling with a growing number of vacant shops, ours offers a vibrant mix of independent and chain retailers and is expanding, which is practically unheard of in today's retail climate. Simply drive along Chatsworth Road or Whittington Moor to see new restaurants, bars and independent shops opening for evidence of this.
For everyone who says Chesterfield’s high street is in decline and dominated by vacant premises and charity shops, I say visit neighbouring towns or even those further afield and you will see this is not the case.
Shopping local, rather than online, in national chain stores or in the out of town retail parks will ensure Chesterfield’s retail sector continues to thrive. Whether you spend pence or pounds, every penny counts when shopping with an independent retailer. The owners of these business invariably live in the area and plough the money back into our local economy.
It’s not just the act of spending money that ensures our retail success but also our ability to 'talk up' the town both here and outside it. Rather than putting the town down and bemoaning it, tell people how great it is. How many other towns honour their market traders and independent traders each year? In fact, one of the oldest, Ibbotson's took the titles of not only market trader of the year but also the prestigious Retailer of the Year at the Retail Awards.
Now in its 71st year of trading, Ibbotson’s is weathering the difficult financial climate and adapting the business for a new retail era, making them, I think, a real retail powerhouse. Now that' something to shout about, don't you think?