MR BIG ASKS… Marie Spence

Marie Spence is the owner of Isn’t She Lovely. This lady’s boutique opened on Market Rasen’s Union Street during the summer, with another boutique already successfully doing business in Brigg. We caught up with Marie to see how things are going and what she makes of Market Rasen so far.

We started by asking Marie when the business started and what brought her to Market Rasen. “Isn’t She Lovely started in December 2011 in Brigg. We opened here (in Rasen) on June the 20th this year. I think the thing is I’d been to Rasen a few times and it’s a super little place. I knew there were lovely shops here but nothing that we were selling in Brigg so, with not a lot of competition here, certainly for my area of the market, I started looking round for units. I spoke to MR BIG and I spoke to some Landlords and I was offered some really good rates.”

Isn’t She Lovely has been in Market Rasen for just over three months now and with all that promise we asked Marie what business has been like so far. “Well, in spite of all that it was still a bit of a risk. I avoided the high street because the rent is just that bit higher and I was wary of the fact that there were empty shops in the town. But it’s gone well so far. Thursdays are our best days. That’s when we’re busiest. But it is very early yet. It takes a couple of years to really get established and nurture a customer base and customer loyalty.”

As a newcomer, Marie is well placed to give an objective view of MR BIG so we asked what she’s made of the scheme so far. “I would say I’ve heard some mixed reviews since I’ve been here. But I know from the changes that have taken place in Brigg over the years that these things take time.”

With Marie running shops in both Market Rasen and Brigg, she was quick to elaborate on the similarities between the two towns. She said, “I remember when Brigg was first pedestrianised and there were a few problems. A lot of traders claimed that it hurt their businesses because people couldn’t park outside. It was a bit like Tesco coming to Market Rasen. Some people feel that it takes business away from the town centre but it also brings people to Market Rasen that might not otherwise have come. In any case we need supermarkets these days. That’s just part of 21st century life.” She continued, “if more shops open in the centre as well then people will only be encouraged to do even more of their shopping locally, here in Rasen, especially if the town has greater variety and more things that people can’t get elsewhere, as well as the basic things that they need. And, of course, the free parking is a big draw too. It’s one of the other things that encouraged me to open here. Anyway, I would suggest the scheme is definitely something good to start with but it does take time.”

Marie also has a suggestion that she feels could benefit all of the town’s traders, not least of all those on Union Street. “I think one improvement that is certainly worth looking into is some better signage. Union Street street is an important link up in the town with Tesco and the train station one end and the high street at the other. You also have all the traders along Union Street and the car park. So Union Street and the high street really feed into one another and I think it would be great to get some signage at either end pointing people towards or at least through Union Street. We get quite a few tourists and visitors in this area and signage just encourages people to go a bit further and explore a bit more.”

Marie clearly has long term plans to stay in Market Rasen but what of the short term future? What next for Isn’t She Lovely? “Right now we’re planning to do something for the Christmas period. All through December we’re looking to open eight till eight, one day a week, probably Thursdays.”

The welcome addition of Isn’t She Lovely to the town could well be a sign of the burgeoning improvements and certainly gives cause for optimism. Marie’s input too looks likely to be an important gain. But what do you think? Have you spotted any similarities between Market Rasen and other towns and cities, promising or otherwise? Do you think the town would benefit from better signposting? And would you like to see other businesses offering eight to eight and late night shopping through the Christmas period? As ever, let us know with a comment here or on our facebook page or twitter.