Northampton: the town the retail giants left

Northampton Town centre has hit the headlines in recent years following high profile departures of big name brands from their high street.

In 2016, British Home Stores closed, leaving a chasm in the middle of Abington Street which remained empty for two years.

Marks and Spencer announced they'd be closing their Northampton store in August 2018 - a move which angered many locals, who pointed out the impact of the newly opened M&S at Rushden Lakes, an out of town retail park.

Of all of the big companies who've faced financial difficulties in the past decade, most had stores in Northampton.

It's perhaps no small consolation that Debenhams, who've announced plans to close 50 stores across the country, won't be closing their unit in Northampton.

Experts say that one reason the big brands may have left is out of town shopping centres like Rushden Lakes.

15 miles away from Northampton, many retailers in the town say people are no longer coming to the high street, in favour of getting in their cars and choosing convenience over tradition.

Rushden Lakes is one of a number of out of town leisure/retail complex facilities in the East, something retail experts say shows the desire for something different to the usual high street experience.

While Abington Street has been battered by the departure of big name brands, local independents are fighting back.

Shops looking to entice customers back are increasingly turning to loyalty schemes, like Hometown Projects.

Alex Potton, who runs the scheme, says the aim is to get people back into independent stores in the town.

People can purchase the loyalty card for £15, and in return they'll get discounts and offers at a number of stores in Northampton.

Northampton Town Centre Credit: ITV Anglia

Experts point to Northampton as a microcosm of what's happening to the high street nationally. Big stores leaving to set up out of town; shoppers following.

But if Northampton is an example of a high street which is fighting for survival, it's clear that the locals here are determined to bring it back to life.

You can read more about the plight of the region's high streets here.

Watch Rebecca Haworth's piece about Northampton here.