Town centre shopping might seem a thing of the past in the modern age, but a group of traders in Accrington are proving that is not the case.

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Victorian-era arcade between Warner Street and Church Street is full, with every space taken up by either new or existing businesses.

The Grade II listed arcade was built back in 1896 and is believed to be the first arcade of its kind in the country.

Lancashire Telegraph: The arcade is an indoor shopping centre linking Warner Street and Church Street in AccringtonThe arcade is an indoor shopping centre linking Warner Street and Church Street in Accrington (Image: NQ)

Until it was purchased by its current owner back in 2013, it looked like such history could go to ruin, but the closure of Accrington market has seen an influx of businesses make their way to the arcade instead, and it’s back on its way to becoming a thriving shopping area once more.

The man leading the way in its revolution is Michael Roberts, the owner of Geeks n Gizmos, which is one of the latest additions to the arcade having only been operating for around a month.

Michael, 34, said: “I’m trying to get this place up and running. I came here on a whim as I wanted to do something different.

“I wasn’t really part of the market for years. I started in June last year selling stuff on pop-up stalls. The café was the first place to move from the market into here officially.

“This arcade itself is over 200 years old now. You can probably tell by looking about. There’s plenty of character in this place. People are happy to see it full again, but others don’t know it’s full.

Lancashire Telegraph: Michael Roberts, owner of Geeks n GizmosMichael Roberts, owner of Geeks n Gizmos (Image: NQ)

“With the market closing, it’s pushed people to look for alternatives. We all had nowhere to go. I think it was the character of this place that drew people.

“Inside here it feels nostalgic, it’s got personality. When you’re doing pop-ups it’s nice, it’s fun – but it’s nice to have your own place too.”

Michael set up a Facebook group for the business owners to post in and advertise themselves. The group is open to the public and already has close to 600 members.

Lancashire Telegraph: The Accrington Arcade Facebook group has close to 600 members alreadyThe Accrington Arcade Facebook group has close to 600 members already (Image: Facebook)

He continued: “In the first couple of days that Facebook page was getting a lot of traffic. We did notice people coming in and saying we saw you on the Facebook page.

“I’ve noticed the traffic has gone up but it’s still not where I believe it could be.”

It’s not just Michael who believes moving to the arcade has benefitted their business.

Jake and Samantha Skarzynski, who run Jake’s Perfume Parlour, said they are able to trade far more often than they could at the market.

Jake said: “At the market we used to trade once every fortnight as a pop-up stall, but now we’re able to trade here four days a week.

“The market closure motivated us to find this place. It took some courage but we wanted to carry on and retain the customer base we had built.

Lancashire Telegraph: Jake and Samantha Skarzynski of Jake's Perfume ParlourJake and Samantha Skarzynski of Jake's Perfume Parlour (Image: NQ)

“At first there was nothing much here. For 30 years it’s never been full and now it is. We probably would have felt like we were taking a risk if the business wasn’t already established.

“Traffic has increased drastically here now. You see people passing by, stopping in at the café, whereas before it was just a shortcut for people to get through. It’s been the best move ever.”

Perhaps what saved the arcade from a complete demise was its purchase back in 2013 by Tariq Aslam.

There were only two tenants inside the arcade when he took over but following substantial investment, it’s now thriving once again.

He said: “Contrary to Accrington’s dilemma of lack of businesses and shops, the arcade seems to be doing okay.

"We’ve got a selection of really nice retailers and we’re slowly turning the tide.

Lancashire Telegraph: The outside of Haseeb Bashir's embroidery shopThe outside of Haseeb Bashir's embroidery shop (Image: NQ)

“We’re a bit unique, we’re a bit quirky, and we’ve got a lot to offer. We all bring something different.

“When we took over it was really run down. We’ve invested quite a substantial amount of money to bring the retail units up to the standard where they can be habitable again.

“It’s still a work in progress but we’ve got some nice traders in and hopefully we’ll get some more footfall.

"We’re trying to do what we can to make people see we’re here and come and have a look.”

The feature of a lot of the businesses seems to be that they are trying something new.

Lancashire Telegraph: Inside Geeks n GizmosInside Geeks n Gizmos (Image: NQ)

Jake and Samantha stock well known, branded perfumes for a cheap price, allowing customers to take home testers and try the products out – something that appeared to die out at larger retailers during the pandemic.

Haseeb Bashir, who owns an embroidery shop in the centre of the arcade, started his business in 2022 and says he makes TikTok videos of all the things he makes in an attempt to attract new customers.

Elsewhere in the arcade, there is a card shop, a sweet shop, Love Lottie which sells bath products, a book shop which offers free reading lessons, a café, a gift shop, and a furniture shop.

Michael, too, has big plans for Geeks n Gizmos.

He said: “I’ve got the sofa so people can come in and just sit down.

"There’s a group of college kids who come and chill out. I want to expand and offer something more like that.

“I want to do a community workshop. If people want to come in, I can help them, teach them. They can print stuff (on 3D printers), whether it’s stuff they make themselves or things they’ve seen online.

“I’ve also been trying to encourage the local college to come down and get some of their students on the machines.

“I’ve got the sensory corner there. You get kids who have hard times – they can put on ear defenders, close the curtains, and shut themselves away for a few minutes. I want to be able to offer more stuff like that as well.

“I want to expand. I want to get bigger. I want to offer make sessions, a community workshop, a safe space for people. I’ve got so many plans, not enough money, and not enough space in my head to do it all!

“I think it’ll get there. The arcade is a beautiful place and there’s so many different shops here now that all work together, and we try and help each other.”