A new business hub opening in Galashiels town centre next month will offer retail space for more than 20 traders.
Whynot? has been operating in a former supermarket in North Berwick in East Lothian since 2013, hosting 400-plus independent craftspeople, artists, small businesses and community groups over that time, and it’s now about to open a second branch in the Borders.
It’s moving into the old M&Co clothes shop in Channel Street, empty for almost two years, and will open on Wednesday, May 8.
Whynot? director Jenny Potter said: “Galashiels has a really busy town centre and a bright future.
“The Borders has a huge variety of fabulous artists and makers. Whynot? in Galashiels will provide a base for these and also provide concessions for community groups and not-for-profit organisations to publicise what they do.
“We are really excited to be part of the Borders community.
“In East Lothian, Whynot? has generated over £4m for the local economy and provides direct employment for 15 people, and the wider benefits of having so many small businesses in one place are considerable.
“Each and every person who takes space in Whynot? has the opportunity to grow their business at a pace that suits them.
“One of our retailers started out five years ago with just a small table for one day a week, gradually building up more space and staying seven days a week. Now she’s about to leave us and move into her own retail premises, employing three staff.
“Since we opened, we have had almost 20 retailers establish themselves in Whynot? and grown their business to the point of taking on their own premises and becoming employers themselves, but that’s not what everyone is looking to do.
“The beauty of Whynot? is that it’s so flexible and there are options for people to work at their own pace on a level that suits them.
“People can take space for only one day if they like or two or three. Some people don’t like the selling part of retail ,so we have options where we can do that on their behalf.”
One of the businesses hosted by Whynot? in North Berwick has particular reason to look forward to its new branch opening.
Emma Milner-Smith, co-owner with her husband Guy of Galashiels craft operation the Tartan Penguin, explained: “We left our full-time jobs to establish our craft business two years ago.
“Initially, we travelled around lots of fairs and shows that are held across the country, but then we discovered Whynot? in North Berwick. That was a real game-changer for us. It gave us a soft start but a firm base to trade from.
“Our sales have been fantastic, and we can’t wait to be part of the new Whynot? right on our doorstep in Gala.”
As well as space for makers and artists, the new premises will have a separate cafe and, in the near future, a delicatessen, greengrocer’s and bakery.
Mrs Potter added: “Retail is changing rapidly, and customers want something a bit different from the large chains.
“Because of high rents and business rates, it’s very difficult for small independents to get a foothold on the high street.
“Whynot? solves that by offering flexible space for a single affordable fee without having to sign up to a long lease.
“Experts have told us that our model is the future of retail.
“It’s worked so far, not just for us but for dozens of others, so we are really delighted to be coming to Gala to do it all again.”