1. ITV Report

An 'unpredictable year' for independent shops in Somerset

The owner of Ginger Fig in Taunton says business has never been so uncertain. Credit: ITV News

Independent traders in Somerset have told ITV News that 2017 has been one of the most unpredictable years they've ever seen.

And this Christmas is no different. One shop owner in Taunton has blamed the uncertainty around Brexit for people not spending money. Catherine Esbester has been running Ginger Fig for ten years and she has never seen a situation like this.

In the ten years that Ginger Fig's been operating now I would say definitely that this is the weirdest, most unpredictable year that we've ever seen.

I put it down to Brexit, most definitely.

It's made everybody feel uncertain. I mean you couldn't have a more uncertain government at the moment and I think it ripples out to the rest of the country.

– Catherine Esbester Owner, Ginger Fig
Credit: ITV West Country

Taunton Chamber of Commerce says as much is being done as possible to draw people in. Colin Barrell told ITV News, "If I speak to other traders in the town, especially in retail, we never know what's coming next week or the week after".

"We have things like our regular farmers market on a Thursday which is always a big draw for people. We've got a lot of local suppliers, very good quality products here every Thursday. In the lead-up to Christmas we have got late night shopping",

Staff at the Emporium Somerset in Wellington are campaigning for people to shop locally. Credit: ITV West Country

In contrast, Taunton's near neighbour Wellington has become a base for many independent retailers which are popular with shoppers.

  • You can buy things that you can't get in mainstream shops
  • There is no problem with returns as the shop is just down the road
  • You're supporting local business
  • It's good for local employment
  • There's less carbon footprint

The owners of The Emporium Somerset, based in the town, are hoping to spread that attitude further with a new campaign.

"We just wanted people to realise that you can just step out of the door and get everything here in Wellington without having to go to a larger city or to actually order online. We just wanted to wake people up a little bit".

Do you think people need waking up, then?

"I think some people do. I don't actually think people realise what they've got on their doorstep".

– Cato Cooper, Owner, The Emporium Somerset

The ambition for high street shopping in the coming years is high in many towns across the West Country. But for some retailers - the hope is simply for a strong Christmas…and more stability in 2018.

Taunton trader Catherine Esbester is hoping for more stability in 2018. Credit: ITV West Country