Retailer fears she may have to close town store after expanding online during lockdown

PUBLISHED: 07:53 27 August 2020 | UPDATED: 16:21 27 August 2020

Sarah Simonds at Artichoke. Pic: Artichoke

Sarah Simonds at Artichoke. Pic: Artichoke


The owner of a women’s clothing store who expanded her website in lockdown is considering whether to now close her high street store.

Moving the stock back into the Artichoke shop in Swaffham's Market Place. Pic: ArtichokeMoving the stock back into the Artichoke shop in Swaffham's Market Place. Pic: Artichoke

Sarah Simonds, who runs a boutique called Artichoke in Swaffham’s Market Place, took all her stock home in lockdown and worked night and day promoting her website.

Even though she’s opened her shop again, she said if online sales continue to do so well, she would consider closing in the high street.

MORE: Sales down by nearly 17pc at Wetherspoon pubs since reopening

Mrs Simonds, 57, who opened in Swaffham four years ago, after relocating the business from Ely, Cambridgeshire, said she’d paid 50pc rent during lockdown which she now owed to her landlord.

All the stock boxed up to go back into the shop in Swaffham. Pic: ArtichokeAll the stock boxed up to go back into the shop in Swaffham. Pic: Artichoke

Her sales were around 50/50 in terms of online and the shop. “When lockdown happened, all the events where I do a pop-up shop stopped and £35,000 was wiped off my turnover in five minutes when the government announced it.

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“I explained to my landlord that I’d had half my income for the next four months taken away from me. I told him that it was a cash flow problem, not profitability, and that events were rebooking for the autumn.

“I told my suppliers I would pay when I could or I’d send my stock back. It was all extremely traumatic.”

Sarah Simonds at Artichoke. Pic: ArtichokeSarah Simonds at Artichoke. Pic: Artichoke

Mrs Simonds, who lives near Methwold, worked in isolation from her family at home, posting onto social media and growing her brand online.

“Artichoke isn’t a hobby, I pay half the mortgage from it,” said Mrs Simonds whose husband Rob has a pork business.

“I have some really loyal customers who are supporting the shop and I just want to get through to next year but will have to review the situation at the end of October. It’s more important that my business survives than I have a shop in Swaffham, I don’t want to close but I need to keep the business afloat.

“I fear businesses will fold but reinvent themselves in a different form and not on the high street.”

Sarah Simonds at ArtichokeSarah Simonds at Artichoke

But other retailers said business was good with trade really picking up since they’d reopened. Mike Manley, who owns Busy Bee printers in the Market Place, said he’d reopened back in July, earlier than planned, because so many customers were emailing him needing work done. Mr Manley, who’s relocated twice in Swaffham, bought the shop and divided it into two, letting the other half, and so didn’t have the pressure of having to pay rent. “I’m paying a mortgage now instead. Business is good, people want flyers printed, business cards and I think Swaffham is on the up, there’s a lot of new homes being built here bringing new people in.”

And Vanessa Scott, who runs Strattons boutique hotel in the town, also said trade had really picked up since reopening. “We are booked up until the end of September,” she said. “We are seeing 90-100pc occupancy, we’ve had cyclosts and walkers, people who say they usually go abroad on holiday who can’t believe they’ve never been to Norfolk whenit’s such a beautiful county.”

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