Shopping in Stowmarket and Hadleigh now just a click away
Over 100 new businesses have signed up to the Virtual High Street as the site launches in Hadleigh and Stowmarket, joining over 130 already signed up to the platform in Sudbury.
Shoppers can benefit from even more ways to shop local at a range of high street stores, independent retailers, market stalls, services providers as well as cafes and restaurants. Customers will be able to visit their local shops online to browse stock, place orders and arrange click and collect or a delivery from home or on the move.
Over the past 18 months, the way many people are shopping has changed and the desire to shop local and support local businesses has increased.
The aim of the Virtual High Street is to bring the local high street and market stalls into the homes of customers before they visit the high street in person, making shopping local and supporting local businesses even easier.
In Stowmarket, shoppers can find almost 60 shops and businesses including Molls and Dolls Boutique, Style at Stow, Superb Travel Suffolk, Taylor Made Trees as well as finding out what’s on at the John Peel Centre.
For residents in Hadleigh, over 55 businesses including Ferguson’s Delicatessen, Cobbler Café and Wine Bar, Andrew’s Quality Butchers and EriVica Cakes are all signed up as well as accommodation providers such as Holbeck House B&B and The Gables B&B.
A localised feature of the Virtual High Street is the ability to access to over 15 market stalls across both Hadleigh and Stowmarket with some stalls such as Vegelicious present in both towns.
Matt McQueen, owner of Papillon Menswear in Hadleigh commented:
“I love the fact I can interact with my customers directly, offering a bespoke service. Customers can contact me, check stock availability, or arrange free local delivery if required. Interacting directly with your customers is one of the advantages small independent businesses have over large corporate chains. The VHS will enable me to connect with a wider audience, ensuring I continue to offer the best service possible.”
Owner of Orwell Local Foods, Adrian Hearne said:
“I’m really excited to join the Virtual High Street in Stowmarket to share special offers and showcase the seasonal produce that will be found on my market stall each week. I’ve been selling locally produced food for over 10 years and my customers are very loyal and it’s great to have another way to interact with them and keep that relationship going outside market days.”
The first Virtual High Street was built upon a concept launched in Sudbury in March 2020 after Sudbury Town Council identified an opportunity to support businesses during the first unprecedented national lockdown. In October, following investment from Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils, the platform was relaunched with additional functionality and welcomed over 100 businesses within the first month.
Further investment from the Suffolk Inclusive Growth Investment Fund (SIGIF) means that Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils have been able to appoint a Town Centre Business Liaison Officer to help expand the Virtual High Street to Stowmarket and Hadleigh followed by Needham Market and Eye in the coming months.
To help businesses make the most of the Virtual High Street and improve their online presence both on the Virtual High Street and beyond, Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils are launching a free digital skills programme. Open to businesses signed up to the Virtual High Street, the programme will include a range of topics including how to get the most out of your individual page on the Virtual High Street, online security, and social media marketing.
Commenting on the Virtual High Street, Cllr Michael Holt, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for economic growth said:
“Following the success in Sudbury, I’m delighted that the response to the Virtual High Street in Hadleigh has been so positive. The town has a very loyal customer base and its fantastic that shoppers now have another, convenient way to shop that supports their visits to town.
“The introduction of the Digital Skills Programme, which will help both those businesses who are already active online as well as those just starting out, is a really exciting element of our business recovery plan.”
Cllr Gerard Brewster, Mid Suffolk District Council’s cabinet member for economic growth commented:
“The Virtual High Street will be a great asset to the businesses in Stowmarket who will be able to showcase their products and offers to shoppers both in Stowmarket and further afield.
“We have a bustling high street and market with many independent retailers and we recently announced exciting news that we have another three open or about to open shortly. I am delighted that we can support businesses in our town to grow both online as well as on the high street.”