THE high street has had its fair share of set backs in recent times, and it seems the coronavirus pandemic has only created more problems for small, independent businesses and retailers, with many shops closing and once-bustling units now lying empty.

However, one East Lancashire town it seems, is bucking this trend; and with the majority of shops occupied, many filled with unique and refreshing businesses keen to offer their products and skills to their local community, what exactly is it that’s turned Great Harwood from a forgotten sleepy part of Hyndburn, to a bustling, busy, booming high street that’s become a destination for consumers across the county?

Lancashire Telegraph:

“I think it’s because people want to see Great Harwood do well,” said Tessa Clemson, of Tessa Clemson Yoga.

“People want to support each other and help the community thrive - they're committed to the area.

“There’s a lot of younger people who’ve started opening businesses; young entrepreneurs, because the rents are affordable and I think that has a lot to do with it too.”

Just walking down Queen Street in Great Harwood, you can tell there’s a buzz about the place.

There’s cafes and grocers, butchers and hairdressers, cake shops and bakeries, dog groomers and tattoo studios, gift shops and eco-friendly shops, delis and beauticians, wine bars and fish and chip shops, dress makers and florists.

There’s even Tessa's yoga studio, tucked away on Glebe Street.

Lancashire Telegraph:

Great Harwood has transformed itself, and the retailers, and locals alike, are loving it.

Lauren Maguire who runs Brie Mine, one of the newest shops to open on Queen Street said: “I've been selling grazing boxes and cheese and making wedding cheese cakes for a few years now, but when lockdown began and 30 weddings got rescheduled I decided to leave things while I home schooled my daughter.

Lancashire Telegraph:

"But then I saw people were doing cakes and grazing boxes for delivery and I thought I may as well do that too and it went absolutely mental.

"I was so busy, and I just thought, it's been a goal of mine for a while to have my own deli or shop but I didn't know how I'd fit it in, but lockdown gave me more free time and this unit became available and I thought, I'll just do it.

"I didn't know what to expect but it's been crazy, the queue was down the street on opening day.

"And the other businesses support each other too. For example, Matthew from Cornucopia will ask his customers if they've visited me, and I'll do the same, there's just a really nice feel to having a business here."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Like Brie Mine, Cornucopia, a green grocers and wine shop, opened after lockdown restrictions eased, and owner, Matthew Williamson said despite being nervous at first, he's had nothing but great feedback from the local community.

Matthew said: "Before I opened lots of people were talking about it and saying how excited they were, but you never know what the reception will be like.

"And within the first few days of opening, I was hearing people say things like 'this is exactly what Great Harwood needs.

"Not having plastic is a big thing too, being able to buy individual items and having fruit and veg that's grown in Lancashire is huge as well, and it works out cheaper than the supermarkets most of the time."

Lancashire Telegraph:

But it can’t just be because the rents are low and there’s a supportive and helpful network of business owners, there has to be something else giving the town a push, surely?

“Finch Bakery have done so much for Great Harwood. They literally bring business into the town from all over," says Tessa.

Matthew added: "Yeah, it started with Finch Bakery, people say if it wasn't for them they wouldn't be here. They changed the town I think, which is amazing."

“I think Great Harwood owes a lot to them to be honest," said Sophie Johnson, who runs The Green Olive Deli with her partner Jordan Kemp.

Lancashire Telegraph:

"There’s always queues out the door and down the street. And they have such a huge following on Instagram that people make the trip over here just to get a cupcake or a brownie. And it's why other people want to open a shop round here.

“And that’s brilliant, because while they’re here they shop around and have a look at what else is on offer.

"Great Harwood is up and coming, like Whalley; you don't need to go out of town anymore.

"Every shop is full. I hate seeing empty shops as it makes an area look deprived, so if the shops are full like they are here it makes the area more attractive."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Drawing comparisons to places like Whalley then, Claire Plowes, who owns Turtle Bee, an eco-friendly refill shop, said she was originally looking for a unit to rent in the Ribble Valley, but high rents pushed her further out.

“I wouldn’t change it though”, she said, “I think I got lucky getting a unit here; Great Harwood is definitely on the up and I could just see there was a buzz about it. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now.

"And people love it too, you can park up easily and walk around, and the people who live in the area are so proud of it.

"People are coming to do a full shop in Great Harwood and a lot will travel here for a reason.

"I feel like I'm getting to know my customers really well and it's good that we can offer a personal touch."

Lancashire Telegraph:

Sophie said that as well as her next door neighbours, Finch Bakery, the newest and youngest MP for Hyndburn, Sara Britcliffe, has done a lot for the borough, with the ‘Shop Local, Think Hyndburn’ campaign which began during lockdown.

The distinct purple heart stickers and logos can be seen proudly displayed in every shop window, with flags stuck to the walls, adorning the street with colour; and it seems the campaign has helped push Great Harwood to new heights.

When the campaign began, Miss Britcliffe said: "Through sharing your local purchases on social media, letting friends, neighbours and family know about shops and service, everyone can play a part.

"In recent months the strength of Hyndburn has shone, people have come together to form the Hyndburn Hub support network, volunteered their time and put other’s wellbeing first.

"The next step is safely reopening our economy and we need everyone’s support in this. If people do not use the local businesses, they will inevitably lose them from our high streets.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Sophie added: “Everyone jumped on the Think Hyndburn campaign, and I really do think the message has been received loud and clear by everyone.

"It's lovely that the community pulled together during the Covid pandemic; people want their local shops to survive basically."

Things certainly seem to be speeding up for Great Harwood, and the fact the town offers something unique to consumers makes the area all the more endearing.

There’s no Poundshop chain store, and takeaways, charity shops and vape shops are minimal; but what you have instead is a long stretch of organic, home grown businesses, run by local people who just want to do well in life.

There's pubs and bars too, which help keep the nightlife going, although the business owners agree more could be done to increase evening trade, with perhaps the addition of a cocktail bar or lounge.

Despite that though, there’s something for everyone in Great Harwood, and like many of the business owners said, there’s no need to go to huge supermarkets or big retailers to do your shopping or eat out, you can get whatever you need right on the high street.