A MORPETH businesswoman is predicting a brighter future for Northumberland’s retailers.
Jane Rutherford, who is one of the owners of Rutherfords of Morpeth, believes high street shops in the region will emerge from the economic slump with brighter prospects as the recession starts to ease.
Rutherfords, which has been trading in Bridge Street since 1846, evolving through five generations of the Rutherford family, has made a much better start to 2012 than last year, and expectations for the months ahead are at their highest level in four years.
Mrs Rutherford revealed the department store has successfully weathered the effects of the recession, even though recovery has been slow.
And she is now more hopeful about the long-term outlook.
“Everybody knows the high street has had a hard time in recent times, but we are more optimistic than ever about the rest of the year,” she said.
“We have experienced a higher footfall in the store during the first few months of 2012 than the corresponding four months last year.
“Things were very quiet at one stage last year, but now things seem to have picked up, and are going from strength to strength.
“We are much more confident that business throughout Morpeth is on an upward curve.”
News that the store is seeing more customers pass through its doors than last year is particularly positive as not only has Morpeth had to battle the devastating effects of the recession, but there was widespread anger about disruption from essential maintenance work on gas and electricity mains in Bridge Street for 12 weeks until the end of March.
At one stage, shoppers had to walk the entire length of the street just to gain access to Rutherfords and there were severe delays for shoppers coming into the town due to traffic lights and a temporary one-way system.
Mrs Rutherford said: “Morpeth is becoming a destination for shoppers, not only because it is a beautiful market town, but because it is offering high street names, as well as individual shops, headed by Rutherfords of Morpeth.
“We are witnessing more people coming to Morpeth even though the maintenance works had a damaging effect because of the huge disruption. It must have been very off-putting, but people are coming back.”
Mrs Rutherford, who buys fashions and homeware from all over the world, including Paris and Milan, believes retailers must tailor their businesses to suit consumers’ shopping habits.
To underline its confidence in an economic upturn, Rutherfords has recently opened a new menswear department, stocking Brook Taverner, and its popular restaurant and coffee shop has undergone a dramatic revamp, while a new womenswear concession, Part II, will open later this year.
The store has also organised a special shopping day on Saturday, May 19, as part of its bid to lure more shoppers to the town.
Customers will be given a complimentary glass of wine while they browse and will be entered into a prize draw to win a £100 shopping voucher when they spend over £20 in the store.
Stylists will be on hand in the womenswear department on the first floor to offer free advice on putting together a holiday wardrobe and accessories, while brides-to-be can receive free advice on wedding make-up in the cosmetics department on the ground floor.
For more information visit www.rutherfordsofmorpeth.co.uk