Huddersfield town centre traders say they are desperate for the town to become more of a ‘destination’ hotspot as they recover from the scars of Covid.
While Halifax has romped ahead with its landmark attractions such as the Piece Hall and Dean Clough, Huddersfield has continued to face a battle with charity shops and some good real ale pubs being its main trade. But that is set to change as the town reaps the benefit of several major projects over the next few years with a new police station set to be built, a massive revamp of its ‘underwhelming’ bus station and much more.
We asked 12 town centre traders how they see the future….
What the traders said
Paul Lockwood of Ryans newsagents in Imperial Arcade who has been there for 10 years said: “Trade is not good really but we keep going. People are not spending like they used to. The worst thing is the lack of parking, there’s nowhere for people to park.
“It’s amazing how £20m has been found for a revamp of Huddersfield Bus Station and its canopy. As for New Street, (the main thoroughfare through the centre), it’s astonishing how many times it has been dug up. Gas, water and now cable. It doesn’t look very attractive for visitors – huge holes in the ground.”
‘Trade will pick up’
Mark Robertson who owns the Plumbers Arms pub on Macaulay Street said: “It has gone quiet recently but trade will pick up as we get into December and people want to party a bit with Christmas parties and so on.
“I’m looking forward to opening my new bar Florence’s next door to the Plumbers. I’ve been on with it for over five years and am hoping to open nearer to Christmas. If I was opening in the spring I would be more confident, end of October/November it’s not so easy.”
‘We opened on Tuesday – footfall is really good’
James Atkinson who has been running Timpson shoe repairs service in Imperial Arcade sfor the past 25 years, said: “Our shop in the Packhorse Centre has closed so we are seeing more people coming here so business has picked up.”
Anthony Gotts, 39, who has opened Handmade in Huddersfield in Imperial Arcade which sells all manner of glassware and gifts, said: “Footfall is really good though I only opened on Tuesday. Trade is going really well and I’m happy with how things are going so far. People are very interested in what we are doing.”
‘It’s not good, I want to sell’
Simko Farman of Alsham Pastry who has run his hot food takeaway business in Macaulay Street for the past five years said Kirklees Council had insisted on him reducing the number of tables and chairs outside his premises and that had affected business. He said: “It’s not good, I am looking to sell.”
Ian Snowball who has run the Showtime bar in Zetland Street for several years said: “There’s no doubt about it, business has been slow but our introduction of serving hot food has been our saving grace – that has gone very well.
“This time of year people are saving up for Christmas but the last couple of weeks people seem to be getting into the party mood – we had a large part of lecturers from the University of Huddersfield in the other night and it was great to see people enjoying themselves so I am quite optimistic about the future.”
‘We love our customers – we just want more of them’
Ben Warren, managing director of Concept Taverns which opened Williams Beer & Gin house on John William Street in May 2021, said: “We love our Huddersfield customers who are very loyal to us but we just wish there were more of them. One thing the town centre needs is more reasons for people to visit it and increase footfall.
“But we are very busy as a company and are looking at reopening what was The Fox bar in Ripponden in the new year. We bought it a couple of years ago and it’s almost there.”
Asad Hussain who runs Buzz Mobile phone store in King Street said: “We are riding the wave, there’s a lot more competition these days and people are still reluctant to come out after the pandemic.
“We were across the road for eight years and we have been here for seven years. To be frank with you, when we first opened open we knew fairly early each day what kind of trading day it was going to be like but now it’s much harder to tell.”
‘I just want it to get better and better’
Chan Khangura, managing director of Whitegates estate agents in Market Street, said: “We don’t have the pent-up demand to satisfy that there was after Covid but there are still plenty of people wanting to sell their properties.
“Huddersfield BID, of which I am vice-chairman, is doing a great job improving the centre and I just want it to get better and better.”
Tony Singh, 59, who has run Caffe Venecia in Market Street since November 2013, said: “After Covid, business was dismal and it’s taking a lot of getting back. We have survived exceptionally well because we have a very loyal customer base.
“But it’s not easy. The price of milk has shot up from 95p for two litres to £1.65 and we have had to put the price of our meals up by 20-25 per cent but strangely enough business has increased somewhat.
“We have a lot of professional people come in here, solicitors from Kirklees Magistrates’ Court, the NHS, Kirklees Council and the Crown Prosecution Service and we are very much a social hub where people love to get together for a natter.”
‘Everything is fantastic’
Mustafa Altiparmak, who runs the high-class Meson La Pepa restaurant in John William Street with his brother Ersin said: “We expanded massively this year to create a very attractive dining area from our original premises in Wood Street and it’s going very well – I know that, because I am always shopping!”
Babha who runs the top-notch Italian Cosy Restaurant in Westgate added: “Everything is fantastic. We have only opened recently here but are already looking to rent the next-door premises so we can expand our business.”
Usman Ullah of Sweet Corner in Westgate said: “My dad Tahir has run this sweet shop/newsagents for 30 to 40 years and I have been running it since January this year and it’s going alright.
“We are fortunate in being in a very central position near the bus station and train station as well as capturing a lot of footfall from local colleges. But I know of other stores that are really struggling. We were struggling like mad during the pandemic but things have picked up now.”