Stick together ... and we can bridge the gap

Evesham Journal: TEAM: Tony Fisher and Jerry Lawrence of LIFE Emporium. TEAM: Tony Fisher and Jerry Lawrence of LIFE Emporium.

A UNIQUE Evesham business has been as innovative as you would expect to try and offset the impact of the Abbey Bridge closure.

LIFE (Local Initiative for Enterprise) Emporium, in Broadway Road, opened up in the summer, offering a pioneering department-store style shopping experience with more than 20 independent traders from the Vale of Evesham working under the same roof.

While managing director Tony Fisher freely admits the bridge closure has led to tough times for trading, his business has been doing all it can to attract people into town not only for its own benefit but the good of the high street in general.

Successful initiatives have included extra banners and signs and promotions offering free gifts to customers or free local delivery on certain items.

LIFE Emporium organised and hosted a gift and crafts fair in the town hall for the Christmas Lights Switch-on celebrations while knitting circles, wreath-making sessions and Pudsey Bear fundraising initiatives have all taken place to try to increase footfall. Meanwhile, LIFE Emporium has stepped up its promotion efforts through social media, using the likes of Facebook and Twitter every day to try and raise awareness.

“We have 24 traders now selling their products through LIFE Emporium and they have all been sharing and retweeting like mad to let people know we are still open, even though the bridge isn’t,” said Mr Fisher.

One of its biggest online success stories has been a poem about the bridge closure penned by joint manager Claire Waite – which has given LIFE Emporium its biggest number of Facebook and Twitter hits to date.

She wrote: The Bridge is closed but we are not, Come along see what we’ve got, A shop of handmade craft delights, A tea shop crammed with tasty bites, Forget the bridge and traffic blues, Take a wander down Vine Mews, And at the end a friendly welcome Guaranteed at LIFE Emporium.”

As LIFE Emporium operates as a social enterprise, it therefore has a very limited budget for marketing. Mr Fisher said it has taken hard work from the business’ network of traders as well as a lot of voluntary support to ensure the word has been spread. “It has been a very hard and lean couple of months but we have all made an extra effort to try and compensate for lack of footfall,” he said.

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