A Denbighshire town has been given a huge pre-Christmas boost with the opening of six new businesses.
Among the newly-arrived retailers is former weapons expert Robert Davies who worked on the fight scenes in blockbuster films like Gladiator and Braveheart.
While high streets in other parts of the UK are struggling, Llangollen is bucking the national trend with its combination of attractions and a vibrant and varied independent retail sector.
Between them the five new shops and an art gallery have created more than 20 new jobs.
The news has delighted the organisers of Denbighshire County Council’s #LoveLiveLocal campaign which is encouraging people to do their Christmas shopping locally.
Even the quieter areas of the town like Oak Street now have their own communities of local independents – the Oak Street Gallery and Shop Around The Corner have opened in recent months to join greengrocer Dee Valley Produce with its array of fruit and veg and Gwalia Ceramics.
In nearby Castle Street ex-film man Robert Davies has launched his new shop, RUN Ragged – it stands for Retro, Used and New.
His stock ranges from 1920’s trousers to 1980s cufflinks with brand new top hats thrown in and he also gives space to a local leatherworker and an artisan maker of carved walking sticks.
Robert said: “Llangollen is lucky in not having major out of town retailers so it has plenty of small independents and there is a lot going on here, lots of things to do and all in easy walking distance.
“Because there are so many independents it’s not the same as other high streets where you see the same big names everywhere.
“I used to be in Wrexham and I have been pleasantly surprised at the difference. There are lots of people who visit who were brought here as children and now they bring their parents back and their own children as well and there’s something here for all of them.”
Karl Young opened the Oak Street Gallery this summer and he said: “I’d never done this before although I had done pop-ups but it’s been a lot of fun.
“We exhibit a number of artists and this month we are exclusively local, all from within ten miles of Llangollen.
“I’m an oil and landscape painter myself but we have other painters, a couple of wood-turners with beautiful hand-turned bowls, prints and hand-made cards.
“Coming here takes you a bit off the beaten track, it’s about exploring the town and finding something you like and I hope that entertains you even if you don’t buy anything but if you do you know it’s unique.”
Just up the street is Shop Around The Corner with its array of jewellery, locally-made items and gifts, an off-shoot of the hugely popular Shop In The Clouds at the top of the Horseshoe Pass and owner Roslynne Lumsden said: “We’ve been up there for over 30 years and I used to have a shop selling doll’s house furniture in Llangollen and I’ve always regretted not having it any more.
“This came up for lease and I just thought we had a great town around us and here we are up and running and once people know we’re here they find us easily – Oak Street is doing so well now that we have more people than cars down here.”
Elsewhere in Castle Street there have been more openings, with Occasions offering hand-made chocolates as well as soya wax candles, artisan bath soaps and lotions and Welsh cards, and Sweet Daisy with its sticky cakes and puddings.
As part of the Christmas #LoveLiveLocal campaign, Denbighshire County Council will be posting a video to highlight what the county has to offer and the campaign will encourage people to support local independent businesses by using the hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to share good experiences they’ve had as well as promote products and services locally they have ‘loved’.
The campaign is aimed at persuading people in Denbighshire to shop local this Christmas to give the county’s high street traders a boost in the run up to the festive season.
They reckon that if a third of the county’s 30,000 households spend half their Christmas cash with their local retailers instead of buying online or travelling to the bigger shopping centres it could boost the county’s economy by £2.5 million.
Llangollen is a template for how small towns can operate successfully and retain bustling high streets with such varied offers as SAS Outdoors which provides activities from foraging to river bugs and gorge walking as well as restaurants, cafés, delicatessens and pubs.
Retail guru Helen Hodgkinson, from Dyserth, a former fashion retailer and college lecturer who has worked closely with businesses in Denbighshire points to where the town is getting things right.
She said: “There’s a great offer here in Llangollen, lots of unusual, quirky, specialist independent shops offering great products and people do want to buy something that’s a bit different, something with a story behind it, but you can’t just expect them to turn up, you’ve got to get them interested.”
For more information go to https://www.denbighshire.gov.uk/en/business/business-support-and-advice/love-live-local-caru-busnesau-lleol.aspx and businesses and customers can get involved by including #LoveLiveLocal in their tweets on Twitter and joining the #LoveLiveLocal group on Facebook.