Doors open on Sudbury’s Virtual High Street
Shoppers can now enjoy the very best of Sudbury from the comfort of their front room as the new look Virtual High Street opens its “doors”.
With over 50 high street shops, cafes, market traders and businesses signed up, the Sudbury Virtual High Street provides a single online location for shoppers to access local shops and restaurants while at home or on the move before they visit the high street in person.
Retailers on the Sudbury Virtual High Street can use the platform to enhance their in-store offer by introducing services such as pre-order or click and collect. Each store page can be personalised to include product listings, gallery and store opening times on their personalised store page. There is also an option to include online purchasing and delivery depending on the retailer’s requirements.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, many retailers explored new ways to reach their customers and offer their services in new ways and the Virtual High Street provides a platform for businesses to expand their offer online.
Created as part of the Sudbury Vision partnership and supported by Babergh District Council and Sudbury Town Council, the aim of the Virtual High Street is to help businesses keep connected with their customers and encourage them to shop local.
The Virtual High Street concept has built upon an initiative launched by Sudbury Town Council during the COVID-19 lockdown, with more functionality for businesses and ease of use for businesses.
Commenting on the Virtual High Street, Cllr Michael Holt, cabinet member for economic growth said:
“This year has been incredibly challenging for high streets up and down the county and we wanted to help our businesses to stay connected with the customers and reach a wider audience through the Virtual High Street.
“We want to encourage more people to visit Sudbury and enjoy the fantastic independent shops on offer. The Virtual High Street provides an opportunity for shoppers to see what is available and plan ahead before the visit.”
The Virtual High Street will initially run as a pilot with retailers signing up for free. Once retailers are onboard, they will be guided and supported to manage their own page to promote their products, offers and services.
As the site grows more functionality will be added such as activity and events listings and high street promotions. It is also hoped that the Virtual High Street will expand with more town centre high streets coming on board.
Rachel Price, town centre manager, Sudbury Town Council said:
“Sudbury is a vibrant market town with a diverse mix of independent retailers, well known chain stores and of course our much loved twice weekly market. Our high street is full of personality and the past few months have reminded us how important that personal touch is and the value of supporting local. Our aim is to continue to support businesses through these difficult times as well as making it as convenient as possible to help residents discover and shop local.
“We know that some of our small businesses don’t have the resources to create their own online shop but with the Virtual High Street, they can simply sign up for free and benefit from building their online presence."
Some of the first businesses to sign up to the Virtual High Street have already been involved with Sudbury Town Council’s initial online resource and base on its success are keen to grow their digital presence. These include Nell & Green Botanics, fashion and accessories from Asters and Alvita’s Boutique, food from Weston’s Bakery and Painter’s Café, art and gifts from Duck and Boots as well as some of the towns market stalls including Cox’s Boxes.
Ellie Stock Bishop, the owner of Nell & Green Botanics on East Street said:
“Our new shop had only been open 2 days when the Government announced lockdown. We embraced the opportunity to invest in our online presence, build our e-commerce platform, free local delivery service and build our social media – we wanted to get our name out there.”
“The online response was incredible, as was the demand in our delivery service. Being included in Sudbury’s Virtual High Street also drove custom our way so we were grateful to be promoted on this free platform.”
Dr Peter Funnell, chair, Suffolk Chamber in Central Suffolk said:
“Suffolk Chamber is delighted to support the Virtual High Street in Sudbury, an initiative designed to help local businesses reach their customers. In the current context, it is important that we continue to encourage and support people, to shop local to boost local economies and ensure that businesses have a future on our high streets.”
The Virtual High Street has been developed by local software developer Ellis Heighes who founded Queue Technology Ltd in 2019. Based at the Innovation Labs in Stowmarket, Queue Technology Ltd develop a range of B2C technology solutions.