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Havering commerce unites in call for shoppers to spend it locally

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 December 2014

The Brewery Shopping Centre in Romford

The Brewery Shopping Centre in Romford

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It’s a cause that unites the borough’s youngest and oldest businesses, from shopping centres to independent retailers, trend-setting vintage stores to traditional jewellers.

Roger Anthony, of Bell Corner Jewellers in Corbets Tey Road, Upminster Roger Anthony, of Bell Corner Jewellers in Corbets Tey Road, Upminster

Shop locally, is their call.

It costs little – and in many cases affords a better shopping experience – but has a whole host of benefits for the borough.

“We try to encourage all our businesses as well as the public to shop locally, because that’s what we want: a vibrant business community,” said Havering Chamber of Commerce chairman Barry Hicks.

“We want shops to stay in Havering. If we don’t shop here then the local shops like the butchers and the specialist stores will all disappear.”

Lauren Martin, who owns The Vault in Romford (photo: Arnaud Stephenson) Lauren Martin, who owns The Vault in Romford (photo: Arnaud Stephenson)

Mr Hicks, whose chamber represents around 100 Havering businesses, said the organisation hoped to grow next year, partly by increasing the number of retailers on its roll.

Roger Anthony’s Bell Corner Jewellers in Corbets Tey Road is one of Upminster’s oldest shops.

The 66-year-old, who has owned the store for nearly 22 years, said local businesses faced stiff competition from websites and large shopping centres – but made the case for the traditional shop.

“You’ll get far better service from them than you would on the internet. We probably can’t compete on price, but in a lot of other ways we can.

“Online you’re not going to get that personal service – the chance to weigh it, see what it looks like on.”

Lauren Martin opened vintage boutique The Vault in Romford’s Quadrant Arcade just two months ago. She said shoppers should support not just local, but independent, businesses.

She said: “If we support local business, we have a chance to get some really exciting things going on in Romford.”

The Liberty Shopping Centre’s Susan Williamson said malls like hers sought to have a beneficial impact on the area.

“The Liberty’s in the heart of Romford – it’s not just about shoppers, it’s about improving our community,” she said.

Case study Lauren Martin, owner of vintage boutique The Vault in Romford

The 29-year-old opened her store, which stocks hand-picked items from across Europe, at the beginning on November. So far, things are going well. In addition to selling clothes, she’s working with Havering Council and taking students on placements, and her store (unusual for Romford) is getting some attention.

But in her view shoppers hold the power to make Havering a more “exciting” place – if they shop locally and spend more time in independent outlets.

“Especially with a lot of businesses, like my own – they allow you to pick up something you can’t get everywhere. And while everyone supports chains, it will be more difficult for us, the independent shops.”

However, the former Coopers’ Company and Coborn School pupil concedes there are things shops like hers can do. The Vault opens seven days a week, and on Thursdays they don’t cash up until 8pm. “It’s important to make sure people realise you’re there,” she said.

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