A surprise is in store for window shoppers in Kirkland, Kendal, thanks to an innovative project funded by South Lakeland District Council.
A vacant site has been given a new look which creates the illusion of an urban farm shop in an attempt to help attract future tenants.
As well as showcasing the site’s potential, the “shop-jacket” also advertises the Invest in South Lakeland website where businesses can find information on grants, business support, a local business directory, and a complete list of all other available retail units.
Shop-jackets are designed and installed by a company in Whitley Bay. They are being used successfully to visually enhance high streets up and down the country and are recognised as helping to reduce shop vacancy rates.
Whilst Kendal has the highest shop vacancy rate in the district at 10.1 per cent (July 2014), this is considerably down from 12.3 per cent from just 3 months ago.
The shop-jacket aims to improve the look of the unit and give it a good chance of being let by showing it in its very best light. It is hoped it may encourage traders to open up in the town. This new scheme also offers an alternative to hoardings while marketing the property in an original way.
Cllr Giles Archibald, SLDC Portfolio Holder for Town Centres and Small Business, has welcomed this pilot for South Lakeland. He said: “This is an excellent new product which aims to assist with the marketing of empty units while making them look as attractive as possible.
“Our Economic Development Team was very keen to trial a shop-jacket as a pilot in one of the district’s vacant units. The property chosen for the pilot has been empty for nearly two years.
“Kirkland has a number of excellent local businesses and, of course, the best outcome would be a new retail tenant to take on that unit. If this pilot proves successful we anticipate undertaking more shop-jackets across the district.”
Brian Harrison, Chair of the Kirkland Partnership said “It won’t regenerate the High Street on its own, but as a component part it is a great idea.
“The particular spot where the shop-jacket has been placed has been an eyesore in the town for some time. The space has been transformed in 24 hours and hopefully it will plant ideas in peoples’ heads and act as a symbol of regeneration for traders.”