PUBLISHED: 10:16 13 December 2012 | UPDATED: 22:33 20 February 2013
It's a rocking retail destination: now Warwick's traders have united to spread the word far and wide
Its a rocking retail destination: now Warwicks traders have united to spread the word far and wide.
It is often in the face of adversity that a community comes together and finds a united voice.
Vital roadworks in the heart of Warwicks shopping district meant that the summer of 2012 was blighted by road closures, diversions and traffic jams.
At the same time two much vaunted bids for support from retail guru Mary Portas ended unsuccessfully; probably because the town was already too retail-savvy to qualify for her help.
The effect has been incredible instead of an air of defeat, the town is buzzing with excitement.
The towns retailers have used the experience to invigorate their town, turning the negatives into a great big positive.
The collective voice of the towns retail businesses has come together under the sexy slogan Warwick Rocks.
Its aim is simple: to remind shoppers who might have stayed away last year that the town is well and truly open for business again and is a brilliant place to shop, eat and stay.
Jack Linstead is spokesman for the Warwick Rocks initiative. He explained: Idont think anyone will be in any doubt that Warwick Rocks. With hundreds of independent traders the town has never offered so much, and all within a square mile.
The Warwick Rocks initiative was born almost by accident. As the Portas Pilot bid gained momentum early last year, social networkers started using the hashtag #warwickrocks on Twitter to highlight everything that was positive about the town.
The branding grew more and more popular and has now been officially adopted as the slogan to relaunch Warwick, supported by a cash boost from the county and district councils.
Said Jack: Throughout the past years ups and downs, one thing remained steady throughout: the towns spirit, its ability to adapt, and its passion for making things happen in spite of the disruption.
The sheer determination and passion in the town has triggered some surprise funding: 10,000 was secured from the Government for the efforts in the two unsuccessful Portas bids.It was used in part to support the towns festive events.
There was also a pledge of 16,000 in joint funding from Warwickshire County Council and Warwick District Council in light of the disruption caused by the High Street and Jury Street works to support a Relaunch Warwick initiative.
The brand will be used to promote Warwick as a unique destination. Key to its success is the development of a website that will profile the town as a whole and the individual traders who make the town unique.
The new site www.warwickrocks.co.uk includes a printable version of the town map, detailing where to go, and a range of business guides.
It will also be new media friendly, with a tool to allow Instagram users to post photos using the hashtag.
Special red Warwick Rocks bags and thermal mugs have been created to help create a buzz around the branding.
Its a well thought out plan of action which has secured universal backing from traders.
Networking group WarwickTweetup, founded by local trader Graham Todd, champions local independent businesses and promotes buying local. It actively encourages people to visit the town by using social networks.
He said: The community spirit shown during the Portas Pilot campaign was amazing to see, and people from all over the UK have contacted me to congratulate the town on their incredible efforts.
We hope that with new working relationships and more open communication, as well as a community-led website, Warwick Rocks will symbolise the passion and spirit within this historic town.
As an infrequent visitor to the town, it seemed like an opportune time to check out whether Warwick does, indeed, rock.
As I pulled up near Old Square, on an overcast morning, I was immediately struck by how naturally blessed the town is. Its not just that it has stunning Warwick Castle, one of the regions biggest tourist attractions. It also has interesting churches, historic frontages and magpie buildings.
There is not a shopping mall in sight worthy of the name. Instead of being stifled by air conditioned thoroughfares and a glut of high street names, shoppers in Warwick get to traverse pretty streets crammed with unique one offs housed in stunning frontages.
My first port of call was Hatton & Harding, an award-winning interiors and lifestyle premises owned by David Hatton and Jerry Harding in Old Square.
They are both keen supporters of the Warwick Rocks initiative, and one of the reasons why a visit to Warwick is worth making.
This is their first shop, open for two years, and its a veritable treasure trove of tasteful designer products for the home. They also provide a bespoke (and in demand) home furnishing service.
While the towns bid for the Portas stamp of approval ultimately foundered, Hatton & Harding won a much coveted runner-up Portas accolade in her search for the best independent shops in Britain.
Said David: The towns Portas bids built up a lot of momentum. Though we were unsuccessful as a town, we believe it was because we were already doing so much right.
One of the unexpected consequences was the sense of togetherness it created. Iwonder if that was one of Mary Portass intentions.
Working together to draw up the bids was inspiring and invigorated everyone involved. We had pulled together for positive reasons and then, when we were faced with the impact of the roadworks, those ties became even stronger.
He added: We were in a good position to unite and speak with one voice.
David then enthusiastically trots out a long list of great shops I ought to visit in Warwick from the award-winning Rumps butchers to the brilliant Bakehouse bakery, the towns highly rated traditional Warwick Wool shop to sports outlet Warwick Sports, from high-end fashion boutiques like Coco Rose and Aspire Style to designer jewellers Hamlingtons.
Hes still adding fresh names to the list as I pack up to leave, ready to brave the inclement weather. Dont forget Present Days for gifts, and Warwick Books is great; then theres a great florists Nash White hairdressers is just fab and if you need something to eat youve got so much to pick from
I depart and make it just a few yards before I discover royal designer Robert Welchs Warwick store, selling cutlery, candlesticks and all manner of beautiful silverware. This world-renowned Warwickshire company, operating from a HQ in Chipping Camden, chose Warwick as its primary outlet for the stunning designs created originally by Robert, an MBE, and now by a team led by his son Rupert and daughter Alice.
I continue my whistlestop tour, taking in Market Square, home to the intimate Warwick Books, owned by Keith Smith and packed to the rafters with hardbacks, pocket novels, a fab childrens section, local history guides and, best of all, knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff. Ifyou know what you want and its in print they will find it for you.
www.warwickbooks.net; 01926 499939
I meander briefly into the Rose & Crown pub in the Square for an eggs benedict and coffee; the comfy sofas and friendly bar staff make it a great place to recharge. There are also five ensuite B&B rooms upstairs.
My journey takes me into Swan Street in search of The Bakehouse. Opened in 2010, under the ownership of Sarah and Neil Coleman, its the place to go for a stunning selection of home made breads, cakes and quiches; the shop also sells fine cheeses and accompaniments, a selection of made-to-order hot and cold sandwiches and salads and caters for lunches and parties.
The team has just opened a new venture at Charlecote Garden Centre in Warwick. The Bakehouse, 12a Swan Street, Warwick 01926 497 033
Coco Rose and Kokua fashion boutiques are both owned and managed by Rebecca Fall. Stocking designer labels including Charli, Ingenue, Oui, Part Two and Save the Queen, Coco Rose has led the way for womens fashions, developing and retaining a loyal clientele since opening nine years ago. Its sister store Kokua, located further along Swan Street, is aimed at a slightly younger clientele with brands including White Stuff.
Rebecca said: Warwick is a wonderful retail destination, full of independent shops with individual personalities and service. There are only a few high street names like M&S Food, Boots, WH Smith and the like, which is what appeals to shoppers.
The Warwick Rocks initiative has created a buzz around the town which is really important.www.cocorose. co.uk
Hamlingtons Jewellery opened in Market Square two years ago, providing bespoke and designer jewellery. The company also repairs and refurbishes jewellery. Said Philip Barnwell: The roadworks clearly had an impact but we are looking forward not back; its going to be an exciting year.Hamlingtons, Market Square, Warwick. 01926 492444;
Charlie Collett owns and manages one of the towns unique selling points, Wylies the ironmongers. Its a shop oozing history from every pore, from the old-style chest of miniature drawers lined up behind the counter, to the mysterious array of antiques dangling from the ceiling.
Its the place to come if you want reproduction art deco light switches, brass bath taps or a Belfast sink, or indeed if youd like lengths of anchoring rope for a boat, or an oak door.
Charlie was previously an employee of his predecessor at Wylies and decided to take the plunge and raise the finance to take it over in November.
This shop is part of the fabric of Warwick. It has been here in some form for decades and the thought of it going was too much to bear.
The shop itself perfectly emphasises Warwicks key attraction, the juxtaposition of the old and traditional alongside the new and trendy and Charlie is a great ambassador for the entrepeneurial spirit the town encourages. www.wylies-ironmongers.co.uk; 01926 492470
And so, as lunch beckoned, my all too brief tour of Warwick was complete.
In just under two hours Id taken in only a small part of this wonderful town.
I might not have heard a note of music all day, but as I headed home, boot filled with new purchases, I was in no doubt that Warwick does, indeed, rock!