The Battle High Street Boom
With Covid-19 forcing months of lockdown and closed high streets, it hasn’t been an easy time at all for many retailers across the UK.
Sarah Jones from Wilderness PR explores the story of one high street in East Sussex that has shown resilience, even attracting new consumer-facing businesses during these tricky, unprecedented times.
"Shopping habits have changed and we have seen the community in and around Battle wanting to travel less, shop more local, and support more fully the businesses on the high street."
High Street Conquest
Famous for the historical battle that took place in 1066 that marked the beginning of the Norman Conquest, modern-day Battle has become a mecca of independent retailers, bars and restaurants that have popped up over last few years and recent months, with more opening up imminently.
Daniel Lake, owner of DapperM, an independent concept store specialising in menswear, homeware and a unique barber offering commented,
“Covid has actually done Battle high street a favour. I wouldn’t say it has been entirely easy all the time, but people’s shopping habits have changed and we have seen the community in and around Battle wanting to travel less, shop more local and support more fully the businesses on the high street when they have been able to. Chains such as Fat Face and Steamer Trading have closed, but the independents are flooding in - and not just retail outlets, but cafes, bars and restaurants too. Now visitors to the high street can combine shopping and dining, giving more reasons to visit and stay in the area for longer.”
Daniel continued, “The store was unusually busy during the summer months of July and August last year. We had more UK than international tourists, and they were definitely spending more money."
Since Lockdown 1 back in March 2020, Battle has welcomed new additions to its high street such as The Greener Grocers, Sarah’s Cellar and Battle Tanning.
Owner of The Greener Grocers and Simply Veg business, Elena Heathwood said, “When Covid first hit our Simply Veg delivery business went crazy and we decided to approach the retail space next to Ffrench’s Fish. I have always been passionate about the environment and offering a plastic free living range alongside our grocery offering made perfect sense.
“Opening after the first lockdown probably seems crazy to everyone, but it represented a unique opportunity to us – the high street, local shopping and people were suddenly in the limelight. People not wanting to go to big supermarkets, people suddenly having the time to slow down in life, evaluating what’s important and what’s around them.
“When the second tier lockdown hit, and then subsequently lockdown again, we were affected. We remained open, but we did see significantly less people visit. However, we used the time wisely to shape our offering and plan summer. We are pleased and grateful to have the support of local people in Battle – they have certainly made us feel very welcome.”
Rother Council, the Town Council, the Chambers of Commerce and English Heritage are supporting the return to the high street with its ‘Back Battle’ campaign. Funded by Rother, the campaign sees a new soon-to-be-launched online information hub, events, banners and posters being erected in the areas, as well as the roll-out of branded bags for retailers to give to customers.
President of the Chambers of Commerce, Una Atuna said
"People are so grateful to have more freedom and the choice to go out and about. Community is strong and we are very excited about what the future holds for Battle.”
At Locate East Sussex we have been delighted to see the development and introduction of more independent retailers on our East Sussex high streets, all supported by the local communities, who during the pandemic have changed their shopping habits to a more local and small business approach.
We love to highlight the fantastic business successes within the county, but we are also here to help create more. If you are looking to develop and grow your business, then please do Get in touch to see how we could help you.
Some of the independent gems Battle High Street has to offer:
British Design British Made: Boutique high street department store selling just British, bringing British makers and buyers together. (@lovebritishmade)
Battle Brewery Bottle Shop: Craft brewery producing natural, vegan-friendly beers and real ales with no additives, filtration or chemicals. Using the finest quality ingredients, the brewery take their inspiration from the beautiful historic surroundings of 1066 country. (@battlebrewery)
White Sails: White Sails offers a range of unique women's clothing, charming gifts, soft furnishings, jewellery and more. (@whitesalesboutique)
The Crafty Norman: Battle’s legendary Arts and Crafts shop and home to ‘Battle Projects.’ Stocking an extensive variety of artist’s materials from paper to paints, mediums and brushes. (@thecraftynorman)
DapperM: A gentlemen’s concept store offering menswear, homewear and a unique barber’s service. (@dapperm_battle)
The Greener Grocers: A Green Grocer with a difference, stocking an extensive range of fruits and vegetables, range of zero waste goods, available in any quantity, at a reasonable price. Homemade deli goods and locally supplied goodies also available. (@thegreenergrocersbattle)
Ffrench’s Fish: Fishmonger that sources the finest, freshest fish from UK shores, using day boat and sustainably caught fish where possible. (@ffrenchsfish)
Butchers Hook: A high class master butchers offering a large variety of produce, from weekly meat packs to their own special recipe, prepared foods, alongside traditional cuts and meats.
Battle Deli and Coffee Shop: Serving hot and cold food and drinks. Homemade quiche and cakes. (@battle_deli)
Battle Bakes and Cakes - local small bakery that is the heart of the Battle High Street, offering traditional classics and new takes on old favourites. (@battlebakesandcakes)
Sarah’s Cellar: Living her dream opening her first wine shop, Sarah excels in sourcing exciting and interesting wines. (@sarahs_cellar)
Coming Soon to Battle High Street:
Smoking Bull Inn – A takeover of the 1600’s coach house, The Bull Inn on Battle High Street by the amazing folk behind The Bar B Q project, this Free House will champion British and select worldly drinks and specialise in BBQ dishes created from local produce. As well as being a food and drink establishment, there will be five en suite rooms available to rent upstairs. Soon to open in 2021. (@smokingbullinn)
Thorpe’s Wine Bar and Gin Emporium: Soon to open wine and gin bar taking over the space that was once home of the Thorpe Family Bootmaker.