With the countdown to Christmas firmly underway, shoppers in and around Sudbury have even more choice as the Virtual High Street has welcomed its 100th business.
Baked by Humphries, run by sisters Georgina and Jessie, offers a selection of cakes, brownies, cupcakes and more from their stall at Sudbury Market and they hope to reach even more customers and be part of the local business community through the Virtual High Street.
As retailers and restaurants reopen following the national lockdown, the Virtual High Street provides another opportunity for customers to view products and order from home. Over the recent national lockdown, the Virtual High Street received over 700 visits in just one week, many of which were to businesses that were forced to close their doors as part of Covid-19 restriction measures.
Jessie Humphries said: “We joined the virtual high street in support of all local independent businesses and are excited to be the 100th business added to the website. This year it’s more important than ever to shop local where you can and by doing so the ripple effect of those actions will be seen for months, maybe even years to come. Shopping local is personal, it has heart and soul and that’s one thing we don’t want the high streets around us to lose.”
The Virtual High Street is home to a variety of independent shops, restaurants, cafes, and market stall owners.
Created as part of the Sudbury Vision partnership and supported by Babergh District Council and Sudbury Town Council, the aim of the Virtual High Street is to help businesses keep connected with their customers and encourage them to shop local.
Over 50% of businesses on the Sudbury Virtual High Street had no website before joining and the platform gives them a digital presence for the first time.
The site allows businesses to enhance their in-store offer by introducing services such as pre-order or click and collect. Each store page can be personalised to include product listings, gallery and store opening times on their personalised store page. There is also an option to include online purchasing and delivery depending on the retailer’s requirements.
Michael Holt, Babergh District Council’s cabinet member for economic growth, said: “I am delighted that so many businesses in Sudbury have decided to join the Virtual High Street, especially those who have not had an online presence before. We know how challenging this year has been and our vision was to find an innovative way to help connect our local businesses with their customers who may not be able to visit the high street as often as they would like.
“As we start counting down to what is likely to be a very different Christmas this year, I hope that the Virtual High Street is useful not only for shoppers but also for our local businesses.”
Businesses can sign up to the Virtual High Street for free during the pilot period and as the site grows more functionality will be added. This could include activity and events listings and high street promotions.
It is also hoped that the Virtual High Street will expand to include other town centre high streets across Babergh and Mid Suffolk.
Rachel Price, town centre manager, Sudbury Town Council said: “In just over a month since the Virtual High Street re-launched, it is fantastic that we have doubled the number of businesses on the platform. There is a real sense of community in Sudbury, and this year has really seen many more shoppers realising the impact of shopping and supporting local and making a commitment to do so more frequently. The Virtual High Street enables locals to discover the many quality independent businesses right on their doorstep and buy direct from them online or in person.”
Other businesses who have signed up to the Virtual High Street over the last few weeks include Ray’s Retro, Vi Vi Vi Clothing & Accessories as well as Bridal Re-Loved Sudbury and Townrow Homewares which are all are new to Sudbury.
The Virtual High Street has been re-developed from resource created by Sudbury Town Council in support of local businesses during the first lockdown with the expertise of local software developer Ellis Heighes who founded Queue Technology Ltd in 2019. Based at the Innovation Labs in Stowmarket, Queue Technology Ltd develop a range of B2C technology solutions.
Find out more about the Virtual High Street by visiting: www.virtualhighstreet.uk/sudbury
Pictured above is Baked by Humphries, the 100th business to join the Virtual High Street and which can also be found at Sudbury Market.