M&S Queensgate closure: Community store shows local independent businesses can thrive in Peterborough

Independent store helps more than 100 local businesses – and helps create community projects in city
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As M&S prepare to leave Peterborough city centre with the closure of their Queensgate branch this weekend, one community run store is showing independent businesses can thrive in the city centre.

When major shops and companies announce plans to leave Peterborough, a regular cry on the Peterborough Telegraph social media channels is a plea for local, independent businesses to be given a showcase in the city centre.

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For the last six months, the Unity store in Queensgate, run by educational and environmental community project ‘Up The Garden Bath’, has been doing just that – and has proved a major success. In the past couple of weeks, the shop has hit a major milestone, and is going from strength to strength.

Sharon Peters and Kez Hayes-Palmer at the Up the Garden Bath shop at Queensgate.Sharon Peters and Kez Hayes-Palmer at the Up the Garden Bath shop at Queensgate.
Sharon Peters and Kez Hayes-Palmer at the Up the Garden Bath shop at Queensgate.

Dave Poulton, from Up the Garden Bath said: “We have just passed the £200,000 revenue mark, which is incredible.

"The idea of Unity was to support local businesses, who might not be able to get their own shop. They can sell their items in our shop and get that platform. It has been the perfect illustration that it is a viable idea.

"We have 50 businesses in the store every months – some stay for longer, depending on the season, and since opening in November, we have had more than 100 small, local businesses come in.

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"In that time, we have had 15,000 transactions, and £200,000 spent – people are coming in to support local businesses. We are generating money for local businesses.

"We have a rule, that there are no re-sellers, who buy things in from China etc – what we sell is a wide range of products and gifts created by people in Peterborough.

“We also have our craft table, and free workshops.

"At Christmas we had a lady who came to speak to us, and said thanks to us she was able to buy presents – we are having an impact.”

With M&S closing their city centre store on Saturday, Dave said now was the time to support local businesses.

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He said: “We are not the only independent store – there are others in the city, including in the Westgate Arcade.

"People should stop worrying about the big stores who do not care about Peterborough.

"If you shop with local, independent businesses, the money stays in the local community.

"We don’t rely on funding from elsewhere. And the money we do raise goes into local projects. For example, the money from Unity was used to pay for the new planters in Central Park. So local businesses have benefitted and the community has benefitted. It is a win-win.“The management team at Queensgate have been very supportive, and are trying to make Queensgate into an attraction again.”

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New planters made from bath tubs add a splash of colour to Peterborough's Centra...
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Sadly, the Central Park planters have been vandalised on a number of occasions, with their contents tipped out onto the path – but Dave has vowed not to let the vandals win. Extra security measures on the planters – which were made from unused bath tubs – have been installed, and a replanting session will take place on Sunday, which marks Earth Day.