Love our Indies campaign: why locals flock to Cold Bath Road

Lyndsay Wells of Fit Harrogate
Lyndsay Wells of Fit Harrogate

It’s been dubbed Harrogate’s very own Notting Hill, so what makes Cold Bath Road such a hub for some of the town’s most celebrated indies?

Although it’s only half-a-mile away from Harrogate’s iconic Parliament Street, Cold Bath Road remains something of a best-kept secret for residents determined to shop local.

Cold Bath Road

Cold Bath Road

Over the years, the street has transformed into its own community full of local shoppers spoilt for choice with independent cafes, restaurants shops and salons.

But, while the street is clearly a hit with the locals, getting visitors to make the short trip up from the town centre remains the challenge.

It’s clearly not a lack of quality or range of shops that’s the problem but, like many other indies, spreading word of mouth is sometimes the stumbling block.

However, in 2011 Helen Rayfield decide to shine a light on the hidden gem that is Cold Bath Road by launching the street’s own Twitter feed.

Lyndsay Wells of Fit Harrogate

Lyndsay Wells of Fit Harrogate

Now, five years later, the Twitter feed has more than 4,000 followers and Ms Rayfield explained its importance in promoting the street’s fantastic businesses.

She said: “A few of the businesses on the street decided to start tweeting about things that were happening on Cold Bath Road and now 90 per cent of the businesses here have Twitter.

“It’s great because we can retweet their tweet and highlight all the incredible stuff that’s on offer around here. We’re trying to make Cold Bath Road a destination in itself.

“The town centre is great but when people come here, they see we have all these quirky shops. We want to encourage people to find us and enjoy a fantastic part of Harrogate.”

Fit Harrogate

Fit Harrogate

With the majority of shops on Cold Bath Road being independent, and considerably lower rents and rates to pay in the town centre, Ms Rayfield explained the street has become a haven for indies.

From the ever-popular Vanillis to the fantastic Williams & Victoria restaurant, as well as Catherine Smith, Wedges and Little Alligators, it seems there’s something for everyone on the street.

As a result, Ms Rayfield is never short of material to tweet about and she said it’s been hugely important not just for potential customers, but for the shops as well.

She said: “We have a fantastic hardware shop on the Street called Illingworth Hardware and he’s now got more than 1,000 followers. He said it’s a whole new outlet for him.

“I have lived here all my life and the street has changed a lot because it’s become quite niche with all the independents. It’s like they attract each other.

“There’s a really nice atmosphere around here. All the shops recommend each other and we know we don’t have to compete with each other because we’re stronger together.

“If you live on Cold Bath Road or if you go to one of the primary or secondary schools close by then you will already know a lot about it. It’s been a busy and thriving area for some time now.”

It’s not just the old favourites like Lancaster’s and Cold Bath Toyshop that love being on the street, new additions like Prologue Cycling and Fit Harrogate have embraced its energy.

Former English rugby league player Jon Wells and his wife Lyndsay opened their exciting fitness store in July last year and Lyndsay said the Cold Bath Road Twitter feed has been crucial to their business.

She said: “The more people that are proactive about promoting the street then the better the independents on it will work.

“It’s difficult marketing a business on a small budget, you have to be really productive about keeping the business going and keeping the customers interested

“So that’s why it’s been great for us to have other people shouting about us. To have that support from other businesses on the street has been invaluable.”

They may not have reached their one-year opening yet, but Fit Harrogate are already well acclimatised with their new surroundings and their independent family.

“I love being on Cold Bath Road, it’s a great street and there’s a lot to offer. The indie shops are unique and individual so it’s well worth taking a trip up here,” Lyndsay explained.

“It’s a great street and the community around here is lovely. We have had a lot of nice people in the shop who do want to support local businesses.

“That’s so important because nowadays there are so many different ways to shop and it’s much easier to shop online.

“But, one of the big pluses is that people in Harrogate all generally want to have as many independent shops as possible in the town.”

There may be an abundance of locals on Cold Bath Road already supporting the Advertiser’s ‘Love our Indies’ campaign, but that doesn’t mean the businesses there don’t face the same pressures felt by those in the town centre.

Rents and rates may not be as expensive, but the difficulty in promoting yourself and the ‘stranglehold’ of town centre chains has taken its hit on those on Cold Bath Road.

Ms Rayfield said: “The biggest challenge is competing against the chains and it’s a shame that it seems all the new units in the town centre are going to them.

“Harrogate is a destination that’s always been a bit different from the bigger cities. You expect to see the big chains in Leeds but people come here for the boutique shopping.

There’s lots of new places that people can go for coffee and dinner but the chains have a bit of a stranglehold. They don’t have to be sold out or really busy every night but the independents feel more of that.”

Rather than visitors flocking to Harrogate’s town centre and visiting the chains, Ms Rayfield has urged shoppers to ‘embrace’ the independent culture.

“You could easily come to Harrogate, go to Cold Bath Road, walk in Valley Gardens and you don’t even need to go to the town centre. It’s a destination in itself,” she said.