INDEPENDENT shops are vital to the high street, according to Swindon’s vintage clothes and homewares store Carry on Vintage.

The shop in the Brunel Centre is celebrating its upcoming first anniversary of trading, aptly just at the tail-end of July’s national Independent Retailer Month, where stores across the country are recognised for their contribution to the high street and the economy.

The store, which opened on August 1 last year, was initially a temporary pop-up shop run by owners Steve and Alicja Stuart, who were previously selling their wares at conventions and specialist markets. The reception they have received from shoppers over the past 12 months has led them to remain past their initial five-month tenancy and plan for future expansion.

Steve said: “The business started out as a hobby, collecting anything vintage, including clothes, home wares and furniture. Our house was starting to look like a 70s sitcom so we started doing markets for fun and to try and clear out some of our collection to make room for more. “We knew Swindon didn’t offer much in the way of vintage so we decided to open up Carry on Vintage. It was a bit of a gamble as we didn’t know how we would be received.

“The first year has been a big learning experience and at times it has been difficult as we’ve been finding our feet. We’re in the store seven days a week and when we’re not here we’re buying and preparing stock. “The support from the Brunel has been invaluable. The Brunel’s management team helped us set up the store and allowed us a flexible lease so we could make sure the business would work. And the Vintage and Retro Festival held at the centre earlier this year opened up the town to vintage styles and fashions.”

Steve said independent shops like theirs add to the High Street and help support the big names too.

He said: “There is definitely an appetite for vintage in Swindon and I hope we’re proof that pop-up shops do work, draw shoppers in and so keep other stores alive too. Our plans are to continue growing and perhaps hire staff and move to a larger shop in The Brunel. “Vintage shopping is now a mainstream thing and so we have to be on the high street.”

Steve Fawke, general manager at the Brunel, said: “Having a wide variety of shops is the key to a busy shopping centre. As independent shops often grow out of hobbies, as Carry on Vintage did, they can need a helping hand so where we can we are flexible with our business terms to give them the best start possible.”