Budding business venture in town centre

photo of new shop

Two borough-based business owners have joined forces to open a brand new shop in Wigan town centre just as restrictions begin to ease for non-essential retail.

Little Pot Plants and Olive Owl Flowers, both ambassadors for Wigan Council’s #SupportLocal campaign, have decided to up sticks and join the town centres current independent retailers in the hope of inspiring others to take the plunge too.

On Saturday, 17 April at 9am, they officially opened their shop doors after spending the last few weeks transforming number 2 Makinson Arcade (the former Burns unit) into a haven of plants and flowers.

Amy Bithell, from Hindley, set up Little Pot Plants in August 2020 after being faced with redundancy due to pandemic. She said: “I started selling plants from my spare room and over the last few months, the business has snowballed.

“My house was slowly becoming a jungle of plants so I definitely needed more space!

“My redundancy turned into a great opportunity to finally live out my dream. I’m really passionate about artisan and independent shopping, especially female owned businesses.

“Though there are long-term plans for Wigan town centre, which are exciting, I remember years ago when the streets were bustling with small shops. I’d love to see this again and encourage people to keep the pound around and shop locally.”

Sarah McCaig was a full-time wedding florist before the pandemic and operated from her shop unit in Orrell. In order to continue trading in line with the government restrictions, Sarah had to adapt her business and set up an online shop.

Though the website will stay for good, Sarah decided to leave the Orrell unit behind and join Amy in the town centre. She said: “Since we met, Amy and I have had the same vision about creating an experience for customers. Though our businesses will remain separate, our shop will blend together as one because our styles complement each other.

“A lot of people tend to go shopping in Manchester or Liverpool where there’s a really big independent scene and we just thought, why can’t that happen here? We felt that if we stayed local and joined the other independent stores in the arcade, we could encourage more people to do the same.”

The pair met through Sarah’s Instagram page ‘We Are Wigan’, which she set up late last year to create a buzzing community for small businesses to connect and support each other.

Through the council’s #SupportLocal campaign, which aims to give a platform to borough-based businesses of all kinds, their relationship strengthened and both businesses were given the opportunity to feature on the front page of resident magazine, Borough Life, earlier this year.

Becca Heron, director for economy and skills at Wigan Council said: “The pandemic has affected the small business community in many different ways. Some businesses have been negatively impacted, some have diversified and adapted to the change and others have been born out of lockdown, as we can see here with Little Pot Plants.

“It’s brilliant news that Sarah and Amy have found inspiration during this uncertain period and have expanded in time for the easing of restrictions.

“The #SupportLocal campaign forms part of our recovery plans and aligns with our community wealth building values, which are all about shaping and creating opportunities for businesses and local people.

“It’s great to have forward-thinking people like Amy and Sarah on board to help us amplify this message and encourage everyone to #SupportLocal in any way they can.”

Following the opening of their new store, Amy and Sarah both hope to expand their product ranges and have been in talks with a number of small businesses about selling candles, ceramic pots, macrame plant holders and gifts for the home in the shop.

Local tradespeople were also hired during the transformation of the unit, with joiners creating bespoke counter tops and electricians checking the shop wiring.

Amy added: “We’ve tried to do a lot ourselves but where possible, we’ve engaged with other local businesses too because it’s important that we lead by example and show others the benefits of supporting local.”

Recently, Wigan Council conducted a survey on social media asking residents questions about their shopping habits to gain insight on what would encourage them to shop local more often.

Becca added: “Residents told us that businesses using locally sourced products and employing local people would encourage them to #SupportLocal. This aligns with the ethos of our community wealth building approach and are key themes we will highlight with the campaign moving forward. But remember, a like, comment and a share on social media costs nothing but could mean everything to your favourite small business.”

Find out more about the campaign by visiting: www.wigan.gov.uk/supportlocal

Wigan Council has also extended free weekend parking at council owned car parks in Wigan and Leigh town centres at the weekend until 27th March 2022. Check which car parks this includes by visiting www.wigan.gov.uk/carparks