Shopping locally booms in Brentwood
PUBLISHED: 10:37 04 February 2020
Despite the doom and gloom reported surrounding the retail industry and the demise of high street shops in neighbouring Havering, Brentwood's independent shops are enjoying a period of success and expansion.
In addition to a popular weekend market, the town centre also boasts a strong cultural scene with art galleries, live music and a theatre, which has just opened a community cinema for the first time in 20 years since the closure of the ABC cinema.
So why is Brentwood bucking the trend?
Joe Cook, owner of the Village Butchers in West Horndon, puts it down to a trend for all things natural and not mass-produced, as well as business-owners making changes to keep their shops up to date.
In order to keep up with the times, Joe has an online shop as well as butcher's shop, and he also does meat boxes, for which the shop has become well known.
"People don't go to the butcher's anymore, they stuff things in the freezer. And they don't know what to buy, the idea was to offer people a bit of inspiration," said Joe.
The meat bundles are made up of an array of different cuts and meats. A more quotidian bundle comes with pork chops, a couple of lamb shanks and a beef joint. A more adventurous game box contains venison, rabbit and quail.
As well as offering advice as to what to buy, Joe delivers the bundles to people's houses, as is the preference of the modern age. By sending bigger quantities, he also saves on postage.
Natasha Radford, of the Chicken and Frog bookshop, agrees that there has been a revival, having recently relocated to larger premises in Crown Street.
"I think there has been a positive shift in people's thinking when it comes to buying locally. If you don't use it, you lose it!" she said.
"We work hard to be a part of the community here, providing events for families to enjoy. We also work closely with other businesses, which all helps towards a sense of community, which I think is key."
Indeed, Natasha and other community shop owners from the French Quarter and from The Hair Company are coming together to hold a pancake race for charity.
"It's a positive way to drive footfall, as well as a way of supporting others. It's about sending out positive messages for local people." said Natasha.
Over the years, in-store events at the bookshop have evolved, keeping the shop unique and relevant, hosting author and illustrator workshops, story time for children with sensory and much more.
"All of these events, plus our regular clubs, mean that what we do can't be replicated by clicking a button online." she explained.
"Shopping locally boosts the local economy, but it does more than that. It creates an environment that people want to visit, because it generates a confidence in the public, that their town is worth visiting."
Trevor Oliver, of Oliver's Butchers, also agrees that his shop has been experiencing a boom.
In order to stay current, he refitted the shop to suit a modern age but still retaining the image of a village shop. It also has an active Facebook account to post deals and a members' loyalty card.
As well community butchers and grocers, Brentwood has become a hub for beauty boutiques, owned by the reality TV stars of The Only Way Is Essex. Although the hype of the TV show has died down since the opening of Gemma Collins' boutique, Brentwood is still awash with unique boutiques and luxury salons that are keeping the high bustling and keeping the "glam" Essex character.
Cosmessex on the High Street is not just a place to get lip fillers and micro-blading, it's also an "experience" as the owner called it, with the salon decorated from head to toe in flowers.