In retail, times are tough, margins are increasingly difficult to achieve and new customers can be hard to come by.
South Holland’s town centres have been unable to escape the scars of economic downturn as what were thriving shops have become empty premises, with For Sale signs showing their age.
Newspapers at the heart of their communities have a responsibility to help keep our independent traders as the very heartbeat of towns and villages like Crowland, Holbeach, Long Sutton, Pinchbeck and Spalding.
This week, the Spalding Guardian is making a commitment to our independent traders and retailers by sharing with readers what makes them unique and worth preserving by giving them our custom.
Few shop owners are more passionate about our new “Supporting Your Independent” campaign than Sue Stubley, now in her 11th year as the friendly face at Occasions Jewellers in Bridge Street, Spalding.
Sue said: “The shop started from a love of jewellery that my mother and I had.
When the chance came to get the shop in Spalding, me and my husband Barry decided that if we didn’t do it then, we’d never do it at allSue Stubley, Occasions Jewellers, Bridge Street, Spalding
“We would go all over the country looking at jewellery and we became quite knowledgeable about different stones.
“When my mother died, I needed something to comfort me after her death so I went to college and did silversmith and goldsmith courses.
“That’s when I decided to start making jewellery, whilst having a full-time job in accounts and running parties in the evenings.
“At weekends, I went to collectors’ and antiques fairs which was when I realised that jewellery was what I wanted to do all the time.
“That’s where my heart lay and so when the chance came to get the shop in Spalding, me and my husband Barry decided that if we didn’t do it then, we’d never do it at all.”
Sue describes Barry, her husband of 43 years, as “the silent partner” who specialises in fitting batteries and watch straps.
But Occasions Jewellers is very much a Partnership of Pinchbecks, with Sue and Barry proud of their West Pinchbeck and Pinchbeck roots respectively.
Sue said: “The shop took a big outlay to set up and we did wonder whether we were doing the right thing.
“I put everything I had into this place and Barry put a lot in to help me.
“But after we opened in October 2006, the recession set in and the number of customers who came into the shop got less and less.
“We’ve only survived by being careful not to overspend and not taking any big risks.
“People don’t realise that the less they spend here, the more likely they are to lose their independent traders.”
Customers from as far away as Boston, Bourne, Grantham, King’s Lynn and Peterborough have become loyal to Sue and Barry’s hand-made jewellery, including silverware from Lancashire designer Rachel Galley.
The shop also has Sterlina Milano bracelets, pendants and necklaces, sterling silver and gemstones from The Real Effect, London, rings containing precious stones from Lincolnshire and Peach Handbags.
Sue said: “My typical customer is a lady who likes value for money but probably doesn’t want to be the same as everybody else.
“She wants a different look and it’s that individuality and customer service that makes us stand out.
“We go across the board in trying to sell things that suit every pocket.
“But the more individual you want to be, the bigger the price you’ll have to pay.”
In 2014, Occasions Jewellers marked its eighth year of trading with an anniversary party for customers and guests like South Holland and the Deepings MP John Hayes who cut a specially-made anniversary cake.
But just like every other independent retailer in South Holland, the jewellery shop will be open for as long as demand is there from customers for its services which also include engraving and custom-made jewellery.
Sue said: “Me and Barry enjoy it 100 per cent and I couldn’t imagine myself ever doing anything else.
“I enjoy talking to my customers and winning their respect, going that extra mile to get what they want.
“We hope that we’re on the right track and we’d love to put more products in our shop.
“But we’re not going to survive without people and, as a town, Spalding needs people to come back and support people like me - a West Pinchbeck girl who loves what she does and wants to see it grow.”
Sue desire for Spalding to be a vibrant shopping experience again comes from her role as secretary of the Spalding Town Retailers’ Association (STRA).
She said: “We’re trying to get new people on board, with new ideas and drive, so that STRA has enough clout to get something done for Spalding.
“The town used to be thriving and people were always pushing past each other because Spalding was so busy.
“We’ve got to do something to help the town and this campaign could be the start of it.”
Occasions never to be forgotten at jewellers