January 22, 2020 2.15 pm This story is over 50 months old

The loss of locals: Traders’ view on Lincoln’s big brand Cornhill Quarter

Exciting national names are filling up the Cornhill Quarter but is it for the better?

A drop in footfall and increasing costs are to blame for dwindling local businesses in the newly refurbished Cornhill Quarter, claim the last surviving independent shops in the area.

Despite the reduction in local names though, some business owners agree that the area has improved since the revamp began, and a visitor boost is coming.

Ever since the £70 million regeneration scheme was announced, national brands seem to be queuing up to move into the new units.

Big names like the Everyman Cinema, The Botanist, Lakeland, and 200 Degrees have been exciting additions announced for the area but, no local businesses have moved in so far.

It was a story of struggle for many of the existing local shops, particularly on Sincil Street, for the first couple of years of development.

Chatterton & Sons bakery with Stacey in the centre. Photo: Connor Creaghan for The Lincolnite

Stacey Smith, the manager at Chatterton & Sons bakery, said that business has been struggling ever since the old bus station was demolished.

After 18 years in the bakery, she still has fond memories of a bustling local market: “Things have improved but I don’t know if they will get back to what it used to be.

“When the old market was here, people would shop at the local stores and we would be able to help customers find whatever it was they needed. That’s all changed.

“The smaller local businesses that used to be here could not keep up with the drop in footfall. I don’t think they were pushed out, they just couldn’t keep up.

“Of course it’s sad to see the smaller local businesses go. We have been here for such a long time so it’s a close-knit community, they were our friends and we worked well together.

“We thought that the footfall would flourish when the bigger names started to come in but it hasn’t quite happened. Hopefully, after all the work is done business will improve.”

Paul Pepperdine has worked in the butchers shop since he was 14-years-old. Photo: Connor Creaghan for The Lincolnite

Just down the street Paul Pepperdine, who owns a family butcher with his name on the door, has a more positive outlook for the future.

The 68-year-old said in his busy shop: “For the first 18 months we were losing shed loads of money but now in the last 18 months trade has picked up tremendously.

He said:

“We’ve seen a lot of local shops replaced by national ones but that is for the better.

“When work is complete we’ll have a mix of national businesses and a select few local traders.”

“North of the Cornhill Quarter is going to start and it’s going to be chaos up there, but we’ve had our share and we’ve been through the mincer.”

A few smaller units are still empty on Sincil Street, which could be ideal for some local independent business owners.

There’s still plenty of work to do in the Cornhill Quarter. Photo: Connor Creaghan for The Lincolnite

Lincolnshire Co-op seems to think the same, and has recently marketed 21 and 23 Sincil Street solely for independent business.

Ursula Lidbetter, Lincolnshire Co-op chief executive, said: “It has always been our main aim to ensure we have the right mix of national and local outlets in the Cornhill Quarter scheme.

“Sincil Street already has many of our fantastic independent traders, along with some new names like 200 Degrees and Lakeland.

“We feel the two refurbished shops will be a great opportunity for the independent retail business to flourish.”

The market fruit and vegetable trader Steve Sharpe is a little more cynical. Photo: Connor Creaghan for The Lincolnite

Steve Sharpe has owned the fruit and vegetable store in the Central Market for over 30 years and seems to have a little more cynical view on the area.

He said: “We’ve had a gradual decline in business but that is down to a few different things.

“There’s construction traffic, the market area has been decimated and there is no parking out here. It’s a combination of lots of things, we get years when it’s good and years when it is bad.

“When people go to York they go to the Shambles because they’re unique and you cannot find those shops elsewhere. That’s what we need more of in Lincoln.”