High street fashion retailer with shops in Bury St Edmunds and Woodbridge sees 'massive growth in small independents' on the horizon
A high street fashion shop owner is taking the positives after making a big change to her business shortly before the pandemic hit.
In November 2019, Anna Park moved her Bury St Edmunds boutique ANNA from Hatter Street to the busier Abbeygate Street.
At the time she had hoped the new location could be the flagship of her five shops, which are scattered around the East of England. But few could have anticipated the challenge which awaited the high street in 2020.
“We moved onto one of the most iconic high streets in Suffolk,” said Mrs Park. “Thanks to two national lockdowns, the retail sector has been forced to adapt what they do to continue to prosper and the past 12 months have not been easy.”
ANNA, which trades primarily in high-end women’s fashion, also has shopfronts in Woodbridge, Norfolk, Essex and London.
Mrs Park has recently opened a larger store in Holt and remains confident that demand for physical retail will hold up, in Bury in particular.
“If you take those three months of lockdown away, the last nine months in Bury up until the second lockdown have been brilliant,” she said. “It is still one of the best business decisions I’ve made in a long time.
“We’ve had new customers and our loyal supporters have stayed with us. Bury continues to be one of my best performing stores.”
The lockdown has led Mrs Park to try out new ideas to expand her online offering. She has provided individual styling sessions on Zoom and has embraced social media to connect with her followers.
“We have really worked hard on the online side of things,” she said. “I did lots of modelling myself. It’s not something I particularly enjoy – but as long as I can bring some humour into it then I’m happy to do it, and we’ve had lots of positive feedback.
“I am essentially my own target customer. I embrace my age, 56, my size, everything - and I think this makes it more real and that’s what people seem to like.”
While the town has now entered a second lockdown, Mrs Park is confident customers will return.
“I think people will eventually want to embrace the old style of shopping. I also think there will be a push to support your local community and neighbourhood.
“When things do get better, I can see a massive growth in small independents coming through again,”
She added: “I’m so lucky to have the most amazing staff - their loyalty and hard work is extraordinary.”