The Choc Shop will be the first new independent business to open its doors this Saturday in Swindon town centre by taking a lease for a small unit in Theatre Square, Swindon, as part of a new project organised by Flashshop UK.
Town Centre specialist Flashshop UK has been commissioned, to attract new businesses and enhance the retail provision in the town centre by a working partnership between; Swindon Borough Council, InSwindon Bid Company Ltd and Forward Swindon.
Swindon resident Paul Dunn who will open The Choc Shop this month said: “I read about the Flashshop project coming to Swindon and thought it a good idea to help increase the range of independent shops in the town centre. Shortly after reading the article, a friend sent me a chocolate pizza for my birthday. Being a chocolate lover, it didn’t last long, so I thought it would be a good gift for others but found I couldn’t buy one in Swindon. I remembered the article and the idea for a chocolate shop was born. I made contact with Neil and Iain at Flashop UK and now, after a lot of hard work and business planning, I’m opening The Choc Shop in Theatre Square.”
As well as the imminent arrival of The Choc Shop, The Flashop UK team is in negotiations to take on two further Swindon town centre units as part of the project.
The project team is working with landlords and agents to help overcome barriers to empty Swindon town centre units being let, and with independent businesses or small chains who may want to trial a shop in Swindon town centre. The Council’s Retail and Leisure Needs Assessment highlights sectors of comparable weakness which include: gift shops, artisan shops, medium to high end ladies wear, children’s wear, menswear and toys. These sectors are taking priority but not at the exclusion of other interested parties.
Flashop UK has a tried and tested method of working through a multitude of barriers to encourage new business into town centres, and were nominees for the Great British High Street Awards for their work in Banbury, Oxfordshire in 2016. One element of the approach is to help enliven empty units with window displays. There are already window displays in four Swindon town centre shops, and landlords and agents are being urged to play their part to enliven other empty premises while they work to find new tenants.
Di Powell of InSwindon Bid Company says: “We are all delighted that this is the first signed lease agreement as a direct success for the vacant unit project. The team have engaged with a large number of interested parties and we are hopeful that this will result in more independent retailers setting up business in the town centre. The Choc shop will be a great addition to the town centre and we wish the new owner Paul Dunn every success in the future.”
Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Cllr Garry Perkins said: “The key objective of our project is to work with landlords and agents to help overcome barriers to empty Swindon town centre units being let. Sometimes there are cases where this takes time because repair or refurbishment works are needed or the unit is laid out and equipped for a different use to the one a new tenant wants. It’s better for the town centre and businesses that neighbour these units to have an attractive window display until a new tenant is able to move in.”