Last month we launched our Back in Business campaign to help firms get on their feet again. JOE HARRIGAN speaks to the owner of a new gift shop in Great Harwood to find out how the firm survived and thrived.

STARTING a new business is never easy, even in the best of times, and as owners and directors of firms all around the county know, the pandemic crisis and its aftermath have been a very long way from the best of times.

Nevertheless, determined businesspeople have found new firms can still get off the ground and find a welcome reception from a public eager for distractions from the grim coronavirus saga.

Someone who knows this better than most is Scott Hitchen, proprietor of House of Harwood gift and interior shop, which opened just two weeks before the start of lockdown.

Mr Hitchen, who had previously worked for eight years as a support worker, said: “My partner’s mum runs her own business as a florist and she just said go for it, so that’s what I did.”

Unfortunately, no one could have foreseen how Mr Hitchen’s new venture would coincide with the greatest crisis in generations, but he found that an innovative strategy helped his new shop to ride out the storm.

He said: “The safest thing to do was to close down and then we continued on social media.

“I had good feedback because there wasn’t much opportunity for shopping in Great Harwood otherwise.”

Now that retailers have been able to reopen, Mr Hitchen has been glad of the opportunity to reconnect with customers more directly and has had his trusty pet dog Charlie at his side to lend a helping paw.

Mr Hitchen said: “He’s always in the shop with me.”

Speaking of the customers he added: “Generally I think people have been happy to get back but it’s been a mixture.

“Some people are more cautious than others so some will be more willing to come into the shop and others will prefer to stay home.”

Many of House of Harwood's items on display have been made nearby in Colne and Clitheroe, and the shop has helped bring some much-needed life back to the community.

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