Open For Business Fund Case Study | Arabesque
The Open for Business Fund is an excellent opportunity for retail, hospitality and office based businesses to improve their frontage and increase their kerb appeal.
The fund aims to encourage small businesses to ensure that the frontages of their premises are updated, welcoming and encouraging local and visitor expenditure. The scheme can provide grants of up to 50% of costs for projects that will improve facades, address empty properties, support pop up shops and contribute to a general freshening up of our streets. You can find find details on criteria here >
This successful fund is now in its second year and has successfully assisted many local businesses in upgrading their premises including Terra Botanica, Petite Pas, The Bean Shop and more.
Up to £10,000 covering up to 50% of eligible costs is available.
Sharon Colburn from Arabesque in Perth City Centre
Arabesque has been dressing dancers since 1988 when Sharon Colburn opened the doors to her traditional shop in Hospital Street, Perth. In the decades since then, Sharon and her team have built a reputation as one of Scotland’s leading dance wear and ballet pointe fitting specialists, serving generations dancers from beginners to professionals.
Like all non-essential businesses Arabesque was closed for the duration of lockdown, a first for Sharon in 34 years of trading. In addition to the mandatory closure of her physical shop, Sharon’s thriving online business was also impacted severely as the need for dance shoes and clothing diminished due to lack of events, classes and shows.
As one of Perth’s longest standing independent retailers, Sharon has traded through many difficult periods before; recessions, the economic crash and supply chain issues are all issues that a trader of Sharon’s standing has experienced. But, as has been said many times, 2020 brought an unprecedented shift for bricks and mortar businesses, that will be felt for many years to come.
In order to breathe fresh life into her reopening, Sharon accessed the Open For Business grant, giving the shop front, team and customers a much needed lift.
“For me, the shop had to look and feel different. I wasn’t easy going back into something that had suffered such trauma and we needed an energy boost, a mood lifter. Because of our proximity to the bus and train stations we enjoy lots of passing footfall and I’ve always loved seeing people who walk past my shop, stop and smile.
“I’ve always thought it was important to make a shop front as attractive as you possibly can. That may sound obvious, but wear and tear is a long-term issue. It doesn’t happen overnight, and you don’t always see a slow, gradual decline until its right there in front of you.
“I could see what I wanted to do almost as soon as we were back in and trading but like all retailers, lockdown had seriously eaten into our reserves and my budget was finite. The Open For Business Fund allowed me to take a longer look at my wishlist and really think about what would make a difference to the shop, to our team, to our customers and to the people walking by.
Securing the grant gave me the confidence to go forward with my entire plan – without it, I may have held back.
“I made the decision to do a full repair and restore on our traditional shop front including all of the stonework, paintwork, ironmongery, a glass panel, door furniture, plants and foliage, and the new addition of window lighting to make our displays and stock pop.
“I’ll be honest, it was a thought to do the paperwork for the funding after all of the forms I’d spent two years filling out but it wasn’t really that onerous in the end, and Emily Queen, the city centre manager, was hugely encouraging and supportive. If I needed information or had a question, she was quick to get back and genuinely seemed as though she wanted to help.
“Securing the grant gave me the confidence to go forward with my entire plan – without it, I may have held back on bringing the electrics into the window. I was also in apposition to spend more inside the shop, creating a new barre area for pointe fitting and additional space for serving customers.
“I’d say that Open for Business helped give us a more polished finish – and the fresh start we all needed.
“As a small business owner myself, it’s important to me to support local where I can, and I think this has become more significant than ever before. That’s why I chose to spend all of my budget with Perth based trades people – it was a circular grant in my eyes, that could be spread around. And from the beautiful hand painted signwriting to the painting, decorating, joinery, glass and electrics, I’m pleased to say my fellow independent business owners have done Arabesque proud!
“It has amazing to see the old empty units that have been brought to life with this grant, and to see what other people have created with the extra money available to them. If any small business owners reading this are thinking of applying, I’d say do it. Give your shop some love.”
19 Hospital Street
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