We need to work together. That was the message from all quarters at a well-attended annual general meeting of Marlborough Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, June 16.
Following a tough year for the traders, the Chamber elected its first president from the retail community in over half a decade.
Paul Shimell, a Specsavers franchise holder, set up his High Street business last year and quickly cemented his reputation in the local business world, being nominated as a finalist in the Marlborough New Business of the Year competition the same year.
Mr Shimell (pictured above left) said all businesses, especially retailers, needed to work together to attract people back to the town.
“The roadworks – especially the closure of the Pewsey Road bridge – have led business to drop. The streets have been quiet. It has been rough, and we're going to have a tough time this year too.
“I want to bring Marlborough together; to create more of an atmosphere and get people into the town. To do this we need to bring more people, especially retailers, into the chamber. We need to put Marlborough back on the map.
“I want to encourage people to use local businesses, and encourage local businesses to use each other.”
Mr Shimell conveyed his thanks to Chris Birkett, the owner of Ducklings toyshop, who had championed the case of the retail community through successive roadworks projects before falling ill with cancer and putting his business up for sale.
His call for co-operation were echoed by guest speaker Robert Hiscox, chairman of Hiscox Insurance and newly-invested High Sheriff of Wiltshire.
Mr Hiscox (right) admitted that despite 46 years in business he was attending his first Chamber of Commerce meeting.
“Marlborough is an incredibly attractive town; we must work together to get things done. We want to attract people here,” he said.
And he had some rare words of support for the beleaguered chief executive of Wiltshire Council, Andrew Kerr, who was forced to decline a £6,000 pay rise – which would have brought his salary to £189,000 – after a public outcry.
“I've led the typical businessman's life – rushing to London. Being high sheriff has given me the opportunity to see the county in which I live,” said Mr Hiscox.
“I've seen especially how local government works. Business is easy; I've had good fun building a business. Councils and politicians have to do all that we don't want to do. The chief executive of Wiltshire Council has a much more difficult job than most people running a £300 million business.”
There was also a call for co-operation from town councillors Richard Pitts and Guy Loosmore, who represent Marlborough Town Council on the chamber committee.
Cllr Pitts (left) said: “Marlborough Town Council is a £400,000 business with a property portfolio turning over £100,000 a year. This year, we have managed a neutral council tax precept thanks to careful management.
“We too want to bring the town forward. That's why we are putting so much investment into the town hall.
“It will help to support businesses and create a community environment. We will be hosting more community and business events. I hope the council will support everything the chamber wants to do.”
Councillor Loosmore was keen to show off the fruits of that £1 million investment, which included a new sound system and rear projection cinema screen, smart new steps at the front of the building, and better access for people with mobility issues.
“We are trying to make modern technology work in an old building; to make this building come alive again,” he said.
“With the new equipment, the town hall can be used for business conferences and training.
“We will be showing films and live feeds via satellite from events like Wimbledon and the Olympics and we are talking about a film festival, and we are working with hotels and restaurants to offer meal deals.”
The AGM returned its current committee with the exception of Debbie Cooper, from Lloyd's Bank, and Peter Berridge, of Wessex Print Centre, both of whom stepped down after many years service.
Rachel Atkins of David Owen accountants was elected treasurer and retiring president Victoria Lara, who could not be at the meeting due to ill health, was thanked by Rob Collins of Withy King solicitors, who chaired the meeting in her stead.
A discussion about the future of Marlborough's Christmas lights display can be read here.
After a decade of doing a roaring trade, Marlborough gift and homewares outlet Tiger Tiger has earned its stripes – being named the best gift retailer in the region.
At the prestigious Greats Awards – sponsored by Progressive Gifts and Home magazine – the business was named Gift Retailer of the Year in the South West and Wales.
Founder Allison Brook was at the awards ceremony, at The Lancaster, London, to collect the award, which this week took pride of place in the window of her Hughenden Yard shop.
And there was a double reason for celebration after creative merchandiser Tracey Godding – who is responsible for how Tiger Tiger's eclectic range of stock is displayed – made the top five in the UK Independent Retail Employee of the Year category.
“We're over the moon,” said Allison this week. “Our table was furthest from the stage, and we were sitting with people who had been finalists before, so I thought 'that's it, we haven't won'. I nearly fell off my chair when our name was announced.”
Allison's loyal customers – a mix of local, national and international clients - have been helping staff celebrate all week. “We've had cards, calls and flowers; it's been fantastic.”
“Retail has been through the mill in the last few years and this award shows we're doing the right thing. The stock is constantly changing, because we buy limited numbers from mainly small and independent suppliers. We like to buy from designers who are just starting out, so pieces are affordable and you won't find them in high street stores.”
“Accessories and fashion in particular have been flying out of the door this season – we had one dress that sold 20 units in a day; I've ordered more but I doubt I'll get as many as I know I could sell. Customers can't get enough of them.”
Tiger Tiger has two outlets and sells online. The firm started by party selling from a warehouse in Hungerford in 2000. The first retail outlet opened in Newbury in 2002, and the Marlborough branch opened in 2005. In 2006 the Newbury outlet moved to a central High Street location.
Greats Awards finalists are nominated by customers and suppliers, and visited by a mystery shopper from Progressive Gifts and Home magazine. Other 2011 winners included Marks & Spencer and Clinton Cards.
To see Tiger Tiger's range of products, log on to www.tigertigershop.co.uk
Allison Brooks of Tiger Tiger, named Gift Retailer of the Year in the South West and Wales
A Marlborough-based importer of Indian crafts is to hold its first ever open weekend at its huge furniture warehouse on Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and 5.
The opening, at Honeystreet - between Pewsey and Devizes - will give visitors an opportunity to view and select exquisite Indian furniture from hundreds of unusual pieces.
Anne Wyles, director of The India Shop said: “We have a wonderful new collection of beautiful handmade and recycled furniture. These are real investment pieces.”
Stored in the warehouse are hundreds of pieces of furniture, from storage boxes, beds, screens, cupboards, mirrors to tables and chairs.
Each piece is hand made, and each is recycled or new and no rainforest were destroyed in their making.
There will also be a traditional Indian wedding marquee full of gifts, and end-of-line retail bargains, all at special warehouse prices.
The India Shop started in 1987, after Anne visited India for the first time. She saw the wonderful handicrafts that came from all over India - and she also saw the poverty.
At the time there weren’t many Indian lifestyle products available in the UK market: Liberty’s sold high-end goods and cheesecloth market traders sold at the low end. Anne helped Indian artisans by opening a shop selling their handicrafts to everyone.
She set out to sell products with three qualities: handmade, from India and fairly traded. Fair Trade didn’t exist as a structured concept then, but she followed her heart, which made for an ethical approach to business.
“We trade with family firms and co-operatives, aiming to develop strong business relationships with them and aid continuous employment,” explained Anne.
“There is nothing mass-produced about the furniture and gifts we buy,” she adds. “Our furniture is sourced from local contacts and traders. All goods and gifts are also handmade and we aim, through fair trade, to provide much-needed employment, particularly in rural areas and keeping alive traditional crafts and skills.”
All workers involved in making and packing products are treated with respect, in reasonable working conditions and paid fair wages. No child is exploited and goods and production techniques are environmentally friendly. Behind every product are local people driving their local economy.
The India Shop has three outlets in Wantage, Marlborough and Salisbury and sells on-line at www.theindiashop.co.uk
housing development by Marlborough-based Hills Homes has been selected as a finalist for the West of England Local Authority Building Control Award’s 2011 in the category ‘Best Housing – Large Developer’.
Smith’s Court in Purton, a development of 13 cottage style homes set in the heart of Purton, will be judged alongside a number of other housing developments with the winner announced at an awards ceremony to be held at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel on Friday, June 24.
Regional winners go through to the LABC National finals to be held later in the year in London.
Last year, Hills Homes won the LABC West of England and National ‘Best small housing development’ Award for its seven exclusive homes at the Old Dairy, in Castle Combe, near Chippenham.
Nick King, group director Hills Property said, “It is an honour to be selected as a regional finalist two years in a row. We bring the same quality and care to all our developments and believe Smith’s Court has a real chance of making us double winners.”
At the time of going to press only five homes remain available for sale in the development.
The LABC West of England Building Excellence Awards recognise and reward the best quality, design, construction and project management across every class of building from domestic extensions, social housing, private housing, schools, hospitals, commercial and retail to industrial properties.
The regional finalists are acknowledged as amongst the best projects in England and Wales.