Published: 09:13, 23 February 2021
| Updated: 09:17, 23 February 2021
A store in Ashford has won a top retail award after being described as a "breath of bright, rainbow-coloured air" by judges.
Made in Ashford is a community-led craft shop in the town's Park Mall which brings together dozens of traders into one retail hub.
And it has now lifted the Good Retail Awards' Retail District award for 2021. The category sets out to find retail areas that produce innovative campaigns and initiatives to create 'a buzz' around the store.
The judges praised the way Made in Ashford has adapted to supporting its retailers in the pandemic and revamped its website to boost engagement.
Melissa Dawkins, director of Craftship Enterprise, the community interest company (CIC) which runs the store, said: “We had a website already but when the pandemic started, we went and put loads more products on there, fitting as much as we could from the shop to make sure we could feature everybody.
"It’s all been a bit of trial and error, as well as bouncing ideas off each other. We had live shopping events on social media that we started doing more regularly, then we added the online market nights which we hadn’t done pre-pandemic, because we wanted to be able to offer a way for our members and local businesses to be noticed.
“Things like our free craft tutorials on our YouTube channel have brought positivity to so many in these tough times. Zoom meetings between shop members have also been great because our shop is a community hub and without this, the social element has been taken away. We’ve tried hard to make sure everybody is well supported throughout and can still have as much fun as possible. We’ve got over 50 businesses in our shop and we’re really lucky to have such a great community, so we all share our customer bases and expand our network.”
Ashford Borough Council's Cllr Paul Clokie, portfolio holder for regeneration and corporate property, said: “This national recognition for Made in Ashford shows the excellent work they are doing to unite the creative community and make the shop a success even in these difficult circumstances. With so many different businesses under one roof there really is something for everyone, if you haven’t explored what they have to offer yet I encourage you to do so. Congratulations to the team, long may the success continue.”