Women's fashion store beats the odds and opens new premises

Sarah Simonds (left, centre) with friends and Mayor of Swaffham, Judy Anscombe, outside the Artichoke on London Street.

Sarah Simonds (left, centre) with friends and Mayor of Swaffham, Judy Anscombe, outside the Artichoke on London Street. - Credit: Sarah Simonds

At one point she feared bankruptcy, but for one Swaffham business owner that couldn’t be further from reality as she prepares to open up new premises on October 7 to cope with demand.

Sarah Simonds, from Swaffham, owns Artichoke, a women's fashion retail in the market town. Fearing the worst back in March 2020 as the pandemic took hold and in-person retail came to a grinding halt, she felt business was only going one way.

However, the 58-year-old did not let the pandemic define her future, instead choosing to reinvent and grow the business into a new space, by overhauling her website, which she used to sell her popular jeans, which have even featured on TV's The Lorraine Show.

Sarah Simonds helping a customer out inside her new shop on London Street in Swaffham. 

Sarah Simonds helping a customer out inside her new shop on London Street in Swaffham. - Credit: Sarah Simonds

“I had two choices, either go bankrupt or go online,” Mrs Simonds said.

“When we went into lockdown, I saw all my charity events cancelled which wiped £35,000 off my turnover in five minutes. Losing that amount of money and lockdown was a huge shock."


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She took all her items and put them for sale online, using social media and styling videos to promote the clothes.

Sarah Simonds at Artichoke. Pic: Artichoke

Sarah Simonds at Artichoke. Pic: Artichoke - Credit: Archant

Mrs Simonds added: "During the lockdown, we have reinvented how we worked, the revenue was replaced by online business.

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"We probably turned over between £70 to £90,000 a year with the charity events, already we are turning over more than that online, with aims to double it next year.”

Alongside her colleague, Donna, they help to develop the business and are now moving up Swaffham marketplace, to 1 London Street, so they can have space for both their online and in-person experience to thrive.

What's in the bag feature on Sarah Simonds of Artichoke clothing in Hackford.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

What's in the bag feature on Sarah Simonds of Artichoke clothing in Hackford. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

She is also marking the return with charity fundraising.

She used to host a Ladies Day for charity, featuring speakers and a luncheon, all in aid of local charities.

She sadly had to cancel it for the second year running, however, she is still raising money for The Merle Boddy, a local day centre supporting those with dementia and mental health issues, alongside the opening.

She hosted a silent auction online and in-store on the week of the opening and held a drinks party in honour of the grand reopening, and a visit from the mayor of Swaffham, who opened it for them.

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