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The photographer helping to boost Shrewsbury shops after lockdown

By Heather Large | Shrewsbury | Entertainment | Published:

It’s a shopper's paradise – independent retailers outnumber big chains by almost half in Shrewsbury and it’s famous for its endless boutiques catering for all tastes.

But business owners in Shrewsbury have had a tough year. First there were February’s floods and then, just as they were starting to recover, hot on their heels came Covid-19.

Now shopkeepers are working hard to get back on their feet as they welcome customers back through their doors.

And playing a part in helping these independents fight for the future is photographer Kate Hollingsworth who has been documenting their stories and helping them tell the world what they have been up to.

Kate, who splits her time between the West Midlands and Pembrokeshire, is an expert in brand photography and helps businesses to enhance their online and social media presence.

Story

“People hear brand and think about Nike or Adidas but we all have our brand. It’s about the people behind the brand. I take photos that are natural and tell their background and story that can be used on social media.

“Social media is so hungry and people sometimes struggle with what to post so by having photos they can use for posts it can help them to tell their story and engage with their customers.

White Orchard gift shop

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“People buy from people and if they feel they are getting to know who they are buying from they more like to come in to say hello and want to carry on supporting them,” she tells Weekend.

During lockdown Kate has been working with businesses including White Orchard gift shop run by Jennifer and George Wadhams and Mystique Lingerie owned by Debbie Carvell, both located in Butcher Row, Shrewsbury.

“A lot of people go into White Orchard because of Jen. She’s loving, kind, warm and welcoming. It’s really good to have photos of the products, but having photos of Jen and George is important too because it’s their shop and they are the heart of the business. Jen and George are old friends so I wanted to help them and then word spread. I love being able to help businesses and help them to get more customers.

“There are so many independent businesses in Shrewsbury, it would be a shame not to support them,” says Kate, who is also due to work with Jen Eastwood of Rock Rose Digital.

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Jennifer and George have been running White Orchard since February 2019 and having spent last year getting to know their customers and the market, they were ready to hit the ground running in 2020.

“The first year was a learning curve with getting to know what our customers are looking for, getting to know our customers and our suppliers as well as getting to know the market to see what other suppliers were out there.

“Having gone through that big learning curve, I was ready to use all of that knowledge and have a fantastic year this year – and it all got flipped on its head.

“It’s been interesting – but I’m a fighter. I did a lot during lockdown to future proof the business.

“I’ve worked every day of lockdown either painting and decorating and resetting all the displays or at the house building a website for the shop,” Jennifer tells Weekend.

White Orchard reopened its doors on June 4 and she witnessed the positive impact of her work on social media.

“Eighty per cent of customers before lockdown were simply browsing and didn’t make a purchase.

Jennifer Wadhams

“Since lockdown we reckon that same figure comes with the full intention of spending. We’ve had such a growth that some people are saying they didn’t know were here before but with the time I’ve had to spend on social media and working with Kate I’ve been able to grow my presence,” says Jennifer

Jennifer, who also recruited the skills of Warran Brindle from Design by Country to create a new logo for the shop, is also full of praise for her friend Kate and the work that she is doing to help businesses.

“There is a reason people chose Kate as a photographer. There is a magic about her behind the camera. She can put anyone absolutely at ease at a moment’s notice and it’s like you’re talking to a friend you’ve known for years and years,” she says.

The shop owner says it has been a tough few months but she is now feeling positive about the future.

“At the beginning the local community really came out and gave so much support. They didn’t want to lose what’s so special about Shrewsbury town centre.

“But the lack of cafes and places to have lunch or even use a toilet meant it dropped off a little but.

“When the pubs and cafes reopened it did have a positive effect but I think the local community now want to give their support to these businesses which is understandable. I am looking at coming out of lockdown as an opportunity for a new beginning with the new logo, new photos and website.

“I’m feeling really positive about the future and the girls that work for us have worked so hard in the shop and the customers are responding really well,” says Jennifer.

She also believes the shared experience of lockdown has helped to bring the town’s independent owners together.

“I feel this has united us in a way we weren’t united before. I’ve seen many business owners reaching out and supporting each other. There’s a real sense of community,” says Jennifer.

Kate is looking to support more businesses and information is available from www.katehollingsworth.co.uk

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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