Virtual High Street expands to Eye and Needham Market
The Virtual High Street has welcomed another 40 businesses onto the platform as it expands to Eye and Needham Market.
With over 300 businesses already on the site covering Sudbury, Stowmarket and Hadleigh, the Virtual High Street provides an online window onto the shops and businesses in the district, connecting businesses with their customers.
The Virtual High Street has a range of high street stores, independent retailers, market stalls, services providers as well as cafes and restaurants. Customers can visit their favourite 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 and the Virtual High Street can make shopping local and supporting local businesses even easier.
As part of the Councils wider vision for its key towns, the Virtual High Street is helping town centre businesses to be more resilient, add to their high street presence and provide a crucial role to boost the local economy.
Initiatives such as the Virtual High Street, Innovate Local and the Innovation Network are all part of the drive to support business innovation and growth across the districts.
Almost 20 businesses in Eye have signed up to the Virtual High Street including a number of foodie retailers including Beards Deli & Café, Cafeye, Cocoa Mama Chocolaterie, David Dunnett Family Butcher, Healthy at Home, G Shurey & Son Butchers, Bruha Brewing and Pizza House.
There are also fashion, gift and homeware shops on the site such as Dream On, English & Continental Antiques, Fleurs Artisan Bespoke Florists, The Handyman and PopCraft.
Professional services including graphic designers Outflux, Harrison Edge Estate Agents and Gorniak & Mckechnie Ltd Architects and Designers.
Visitors to the Virtual High Street in Eye will also find The Bank Arts Centre, a not-for-profit community hub.
Peter Brooke, Director, The Bank Arts Centre commented:
“We’re looking forward to joining The Virtual High Street, it’ll be a great opportunity to share and participate with the community to promote our independent businesses. We at The Bank look forward to welcoming everyone to join us for a cuppa, slice of cake and a hearty chat”.
Visitors to the Virtual High Street can also enjoy many of the stores found on the bustling high street in Needham Market. These include Elton House News, Little Stylish Gifts, Kett’s Oak Therapies, Fine-Blinds, ENCORE Wellness Centre, women’s fashion boutique Case Louisa, Coffee Craft N Moore, Collectors Corner, Friends & Daughters Ltd Antiques and Collectors, Simply Splendid and The Angel.
There are also a range of professional services and businesses located in the surrounding area including business consultants Better Never Stops, Gipping Press Ltd, Rix Management Systems, social enterprise Growing Places as well as Needham Market Library, Post Office and Needham Market Aerials.
Commenting on joining the Virtual High Street, Meggie Hedges owner of Vintro Interiors in Needham Market said:
“I am really excited to join other local businesses on the Virtual High Street. Having a digital presence is a really important way for us to reach more people and showcase our wonderful range of vintage, retro and 20th century furniture, garden and home accessories. We are always getting new stock in and the Virtual High Street will be a great way to share the latest additions to the shop.”
Commenting on the expansion of the Virtual High Street in Eye and Needham Market, Cllr Gerard Brewster, Mid Suffolk District cabinet member for economic growth said:
“I am delighted that the Virtual High Street has now rolled out to all of our key towns and is offering a place to showcases almost 350 businesses in our districts. What started as a lifeline during the Covid-19 pandemic has evolved to become an important digital tool to help businesses innovate and reach new audiences.”
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 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 have launched 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.
The Virtual High Street was recently recognised at the iESE Public Sector Transformation Awards 2021, winning gold in the Asset Management and Regeneration category. The award was presented in response to the innovative way that the councils worked with key partners to support businesses impacted by unprecedented closures during the Covid-19 lockdowns.