FASHION CONSCIOUS: Claire Bromley has traded in Barnard Castle for 40 years, with the last 35 years in her shop on The Bank
FASHION CONSCIOUS: Claire Bromley has traded in Barnard Castle for 40 years, with the last 35 years in her shop on The Bank

BUSINESSES on Barnard Castle’s high street need to be able to adapt to thrive.

So says business woman and fashion designer, Claire Bromely who has run her shop Claire International on The Bank for the past 35 years.

Despite a recent rise in the number of empty shops in the town, she believes the town still has a good offering of independent retailers that is the envy of other historic towns.

However, she believes townsfolk need to value what they have and through being “curious” they can help give the impression of an attractive and bustling shopping experience.

She said: “It is more the attitude to buying in the town that has changed. The offering is still good because people are coming in. And they do like the different ends, they come down here because it is different. But the customer is driven on price, so they will go for an experience in Bishop Auckland. People are not as curious or willing to come around the town. I do think the offering is good, but the price has to be right.

“I have seen people walking past and have never been in the door in 35 years. That is the curiosity, you cannot force someone through the door.”

She suggests that local people take time to buy an ice-cream and browse around the town.

The fashion-designer added: “Just live boldly in Barnard Castle. Too many people are going about their lives quietly, which is lovely. But if you want something to grow, to blossom, you need to contribute.

“If you want the town to stand up, it can’t be because someone has been content, you have to contribute.

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“That doesn’t mean spending money, but to spend time, be curious, smile, say hello.

“You need to make it look like it is flourishing.”

It is something she lives by and on a sunny day she can be seen sitting outside her shop, greeting people as they walk by.

Having started out 40 years ago at Prospect Place selling mostly navy and cream hand-knit jumpers, her business has adapted to changing times and the needs of customers. This has taken her to New York, London and Paris to research future trends and to meet and learn from others in her field. A room in her shop reflects her predictions of what she believes will be fashionable in two years’ time.

She said: “It is fun. I am designing, I am making, I am meeting people. This world I am in is fun. I have made it fun.”

Her accurate predictions has led to her developing a solid customer base and, although many of them are from out of town, she enjoys a hard core of loyal local supporters.

She said it is important for businesspeople to market their goods or services effectively and to make their shops attractive to customers.

She said: “You have to put a presence together, dressing the window, making contacts, talking to people.

“It is bloody hard work.”