'Welcome Back' campaign transforms local traders into social media stars

Independent retailers are being championed by Kirklees Council as they welcome back customers after lockdown.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 12:00 pm
Former painter and decorator Emma Noble, who quit her job to set up her own business making bath bombs. The Bombz Hydrotherapy, Market Place, Birstall
Former painter and decorator Emma Noble, who quit her job to set up her own business making bath bombs. The Bombz Hydrotherapy, Market Place, Birstall

The Welcome Back campaign has made advertising pin-ups and social media stars out of local traders who are rebuilding their businesses after the third – and hopefully final – national lockdown.

The promotional campaign, which also includes billboard posters and adverts on the back of buses, has been supported by the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, part of the European Regional Development Fund.

To encourage people to return to the high street, the council is helping promote the wide range of businesses in town centres across the district.

Steve Hemingway with the new canning machine at Mill Valley Brewery, Liversedge.

Twenty-one businesses across Kirklees are taking part. In North Kirklees they are: The Bombz Hydrotherapy in Birstall; Robert Openshaw Fine Jewellery in Cleckheaton; Mill Valley Brewery in Liversedge; Bridge 22, a home décor store in Cleckheaton and Birstall; Cross’s Pork Butchers and Mr Baig greengrocer on Dewsbury Market; gift store Design 24 in Cleckheaton; LP Hair & Beauty in Heckmondwike; The Beauty Spot beauty salon in Batley; Pin Up Hair Co in Heckmondwike; Ushiwear designer clothing in Lower Hopton; and Joshua Adams Menswear in Cleckheaton.

Mum-of-two Emma Noble 38, of The Bombz Hydrotherapy, said it was great to fly the flag for independent shops – but it was still a shock to see herself on a billboard!

“I had to do a photoshoot for the pictures and modelling isn’t something I’m used to,” she said. “I’m just a mum who stays in the background.

“A friend said she’d seen me on a billboard and I couldn’t believe it. I’m not sure people will recognise me with the mask on. Maybe that’s a good thing!”

Mark Hepworth, owner of Robert Openshaw Jewellers in Cleckheaton

Emma followed her dream and launched her business during the pandemic. She went from selling bath bombs on Facebook to opening a shop in Market Place but the timing wasn’t great.

She opened on October 31 and had to close for the second lockdown four days later. Then came the third lockdown just after Christmas.

“It was a big plunge for me to take but we have survived the lockdowns,” said Emma. “Like the advert says ‘we’re fizzing with excitement’ to welcome everyone back.”

At the other end of the trading spectrum, Robert Openshaw Fine Jewellery in Cleckheaton has been around since 1885.

One of the posters for the Welcome Back campaign featuring Mr Baig, a greengrocer on Dewsbury Market

Owner Mark Hepworth said: “Having been here so long we don’t have to do a lot of marketing because everyone knows we are here. But when you’ve been closed for the best part of 12 months it’s time to tempt new people in.”

Mark said his shop had been “unbelievably busy” since it re-opened in April. “There’s an argument to say we have too much work in but I’m sure it will ease off after we get over this initial spike,” he added.

“People are very keen on our pre-owned jewellery. People are looking for value and sales have gone through the roof. People say there isn’t a lot of money about but that’s not what we are finding, there’s plenty of money about and people want to spend. People haven’t been able to go on holidays so they have money to spare.

"We are finding people are spending more on bigger one-off items.”

Mark, 44, said as an established business they had reserves to fall back on but he added: “I shudder to think what it’s like for new businesses or hospitality businesses.”

Steve Hemingway, at Mill Valley Brewery in Liversedge, is in the hospitality sector and is also part of Welcome Back. He found it tough last year and had to invest in expensive canning machinery to turn his home delivery service into a nationwide delivery operation.

He has two bars, the Brew House at his brewery and The Mill Bar at Woodroyd Mills in Cleckheaton.

He has a marquee and three pods at the Brew House and Steve admits it’s been “a bit stressful” re-opening for outside hospitality coping with Covid-safe inspections from council officers to customers being a bit too lively and having to be reminded of the rules.

“We’ve made it through the winter and we’re still here,” said Steve. “Hopefully Covid stays away and after June 21 our lives can return to some kind of normality.”