​Barnsley fashion guru joins campaign to revive independent trade in town

International fashion entrepreneur Rita Britton has joined a campaign to boost Barnsley town centre’s independent retail economy.

Rita, whose own business Nomad Atelier is based in the Tobacco Warehouse in George Yard, is working with neighbouring businesses to raise awareness of what local shops have to offer both in-store and online.

The campaign to boost trade in the town’s Victorian Arcade and surrounding area, has been initiated by Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre (BBIC), through Enterprising Barnsley, the business support arm of Barnsley Council. It aims to kick-start promotion of the shops, restaurants and bars through social media, events, better signage and infrastructure and collaboration between businesses.

Rita, who has 50 years’ experience in the fashion industry, said: “We are all embracing this new initiative and it feels great to be pulling together in the same direction to improve the area and increase sales for everyone.

“It’s been an extremely tough time for all independents in recent years as big high street brands have promoted the concept of all-year-round sales and a ‘pile it high sell it cheap’ culture. We now need to fight back and promote our offer. At Nomad Atelier we build personal relationships with our customers and have an absolute commitment to quality, authenticity and service. Every sale matters to us and customers appreciate that.”

Rita established the Nomad designer label 20 years ago and opened her new store as its exclusive outlet six months ago. Her new venture builds on the reputation of her previous Barnsley-based emporium Pollyanna, which gained a loyal customer-base across the UK and abroad. Rita considered retiring after ill-health caused her to close Pollyanna in 2013, but decided she could not walk away from the fashion industry.

Rita said: “Nomad is a very personal project for me. This time we’re focusing on our own label, and it’s all built on my beliefs and principles. As part of that I’m very pleased to be joining in a wider revival of Barnsley’s independent retail community.”

Through the initiative, Rita has also been introduced by BBIC to a Wombwell-based business, Oh Sew Sweet, where she is learning sewing and pattern cutting skills for the first time.

Rita said: “I’ve never learned these skills before and am really enjoying it. It’s providing me with a fabulous insight into dressmaking. And it’s another example of why it’s great to be part of a local business community where we can share expertise.”

Nomad Atelier workshop, store and gallery employs seven people. It is also home to the Quintessential Kitchen owned and run by Martin Blake. Rita launched a new company website and blog two months ago.

She added: “A good online presence is essential to every business these days. Our customers see ours as a magazine to browse; a shop window and a source of inspiration and news. It leads directly to sales too and means our loyal customers from London, for example, can shop between visits.”

The Victorian Arcade and George Yard, beside Barnsley Civic Arts Centre, is home to more than 40 independent shops, including cafes, menswear stores, designer boutiques, jewellers, vintage and giftware shops, a bakers and a barbers.

Kevin Steel, Enterprising Barnsley’s business development manager at BBIC, said: “Rita has years of experience as a local businesswoman with regional, national and global reach and it’s great to see her new venture going from strength to strength; and to have her on board with wider efforts to boost independent trade in the town.

“Through this joint public sector and private sector project we are asking the retailers what they want to kick-start improvements and we hope it will lead to long-term closer working and collaboration.”

Development of the area is part The Town Centre Plan which aims to understand the sort of support small independent businesses need to improve their trading prospects.