Oswestry market trader Jim Baugh
Oswestry looking to buck the trend
By James Bond
BBC Shropshire's James Bond, asks if the small Shropshire market town of Oswestry can show the rest of the country a few tricks to beat the recession?
Walking round my home town centre, it's a crying shame to see so many shops shut and premises looking forlorn, but there's also a positive feel from many small businesses that they can survive - and actually thrive.
"Oswestry has so much to offer, but we need to shout about it more," said Tracey Austin-Pugh from Hobo's Florists.
"Everyone knows about Ludlow's reputation as a food town, and we just need to get together here to show what Oswestry can offer and might be able to offer.
"I think this really could be the year of the independent retailer," she added.
Oswestry - like many other places - lost its Woolworth's, but it's particularly telling here as the store is a huge, three-storey building slap-bang in the middle of town.
But there's also good news from David Preston of Oswestry Town Council, who own the site: "We're negotiating with a national company that wants to take it over. The long lease and a rent that's comparatively cheap compared to elsewhere in the country mean it's a viable proposition."
Oswestry has had a market charter for over 600 years, and traders' stalls have been a focal point in the town every Wednesday and Saturday for as long as I can remember.
Markets haven't had the best of times in recent years, but maybe the recession can do them a favour.
Jim Baugh sells his books at markets across Shropshire and North Wales, and he told me there's definitely been an increase in business: "People want to stretch their pounds further, and like rolling your own cigarettes rather than buying branded ones, you don't have to spend as much at home - and reading is a cheap option!"
Oswestry trader Bev Galloway
Good Vibrations is a fancy dress shop, and Bev Galloway here says costume hire and sales are up as locals look to entertain themselves more cheaply. It's expensive frocks out, good fun in!
Even the housing market is showing a little promise in these hard times.
Estate agent Kate Woodhead admits times are still hard, "but people still need to move - and I'm delighted to see first-time buyers coming into the office this week reporting that, at last, they've managed to get a mortgage.”
The current economic downturn has hit hard across the country, and Oswestry is no different. Clearly the recession isn't going to go away tomorrow either.
But as an Oswestrian of many years' standing, I'm delighted that my little old town is trying its best to stand on its own two feet and see out the current storm.
And if the people I've met are anything to go by, then we're in pretty good hands locally.
"The news nationally depresses me," Kate Woodhead added, "as it’s all doom and gloom.
"I come into the office every day with a smile. If you're positive, then your attitude is positive and your outlook is positive - and that helps make the path forward more positive."
last updated: 15/01/2009 at 19:10