Feature: Royal Priors in Leamington puts independent shops in the spotlight

Fabulous in Leamington
Fabulous in Leamington

Leamington shopping centre the Royal Priors is putting the spotlight on its independent retailers this month.

July is Independent Retailer Month – an annual celebration of the crucial role that smaller retailers play in the communities they serve, the importance in their local economies and their significance to the national retail sector.

The interior of Fabulous in Leamington.

The interior of Fabulous in Leamington.

“Our independent retailers are a crucial part of the retail experience at the centre and offer something that you just don’t find in other shopping destinations in the region,” said Royal Priors centre manager, Gerry McManus.

“We very much believe in supporting independent retailers,” said Gerry.

“One of the things we really pride ourselves on here at Royal Priors is the range of retail options available to shoppers and our independents are a vital part of that mix.”

The centre plays host to a selection of independent retailers, from unique home interior store Fable and contemporary jewellers Fabulous, to traditional toys and models by Dolls Domain and award-winning luxury bridal boutique, Tilly Trotter’s Brides.

Collette and Gordon Fortnum at thir shop, Dolls Domain, in the Royal Priors.

Collette and Gordon Fortnum at thir shop, Dolls Domain, in the Royal Priors.

“We have a great range of independents, some of whom have been here for years and some that have been here for only a short period but have developed a loyal, devoted following,” said Gerry.

Dolls Domain has been a constant in the centre since 1993 and co-owner, Colette Fortnum, said being in Royal Priors had allowed the shop to grow, develop and adapt as the years had gone by.

“We’re in our third location in the centre since we first came to Royal Priors and each move has been to a bigger space.

“It’s allowed us to adjust and change, and crucially it’s allowed us to grow,” said Colette.

Dolls Domain in Leamington

Dolls Domain in Leamington

That’s something that we wouldn’t be able to do if we were part of a larger, national chain,” she added.

Initially Dolls Domain specialised in what the name suggests – dolls and dolls houses – but as consumer tastes 
developed, the internet became an increasingly popular place to shop, and the company grew, Colette - along with husband and co-owner Gordon – transitioned into other areas.

Now, you won’t find any doll houses in store but rather the popular store now specialises in a large range of jigsaws, arts and crafts, models and traditional toys and they still have their regulars.

“We still have customers that started shopping with us when we first opened,” added Colette.

Loyal customers are something that all of the independents in the centre have in common with many familiar faces becoming friends with the owners.

“This really makes me feel part of the Royal Priors and wider Leamington Spa community,” said Harriet Sinclair-Wilson, owner of Fable.

“We’ve been at the centre since July 2014 and I’ve made some really good friends through being here.

“We offer a personalised shopping experience and this definitely helps us to stand out against other, larger homeware stores.

“All the products that we stock are from around the world and the majority are Fair Trade and handmade.

“I’m always on the lookout for new, exciting product collections to inspire our customers – sometimes the suggestions on where to find things come from customers themselves.”

For a number of the independent stores, a space in the Royal Priors has allowed them to grow and expand as a company.

“We opened at the centre in 2005 and since then we’ve now got two more locations – a Fabulous-branded shop in Solihull and a Pandora franchise in Bath,” said Anna Burkett, Fabulous store manager. “We chose Leamington for our original store because it’s such a great town for independent retail and it’s got a lovely feel to it.”

Sian Smylie, owner of bridal boutique Tilly Trotter’s Brides, spoke of her excitement about being able to open another location – Mabel and Maud Bridal Studio - following on from the success of the shop at Royal Priors.

“The two stores are completely different but the foundations of what we built in 
the centre has stayed the same – our award-winning customer service and selection and range for brides,” said Sian.

It’s an exciting time for Sian who took the leap from the fast-paced, international fashion world three years ago to open Tilly Trotter’s Brides at Royal Priors.

Alongside the growing reputation of both Royal Priors and Leamington Spa as a key shopping destination, she praised the community spirit of the independents in the centre.

“There’s such a huge variety of unique stores and there’s a real sense of community,
 I’ve made friends for life 
since opening Tilly Trotter’s Brides.”

Unique items from around the world, exclusive designer brands, award-winning customer service, a sense of community and a location where a business is able to develop and grow are all key to the strength of the independent retailers and Gerry McManus said everyone at the centre was proud to help play a part in their ongoing success.

“I’m delighted that we’ve got such a diverse independent retail offering that is thriving,” said Gerry.

“They’re a vital part of not only our retail mix.

“It’s a pleasure to have them and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds for all of our independent stores.

“This Independent Retailer Month, I’d encourage to go and explore them.

“You never know what you might find.”

For more about the Royal Priors visit www.royalpriors.com

For more information about Independent Retailer Month visit www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/