Heywood's only bridal boutique is gearing up for its first wedding season, as vacancy rates tumble in the town, thanks to the council's business rates sale.
Lavinia Rose Bridal in Market Place is marking 8 months in business and owners Kerry Russell and Rosemarie Cunningham reckon they wouldn't have made it this far without council support.
Kerry said: "I nearly fell over when I saw how high our business rates would have been. It takes time for new businesses to settle in, so I'm not sure we would have made it through these 8 months if we hadn't had a discount. The sale has given us about £3,000 off, which has made a massive difference."
'Heywood's retail vacancy rate now almost half the national average'
And the sale is already paying dividends, with Heywood's current retail vacancy rate just 6.2%, down from 9.7% last year and almost half the national average of 12.1%.
The council's business rates sale, the most generous scheme of its kind in the country, was designed to revive Rochdale's high streets and boost business. The scheme was recently extended to Middleton and Heywood after it led to 17 new businesses in Rochdale town centre, including restaurant, CockaDoodlemoo, bakery, The Laughing Loaf and shoe repair shop, Shoemaster.
Kerry and Rosemarie were both carers before making the career change, with Kerry's inspiration blossoming as she started planning her own wedding, due to take place in November 2017, to her partner Daniel Cunningham, Rosemarie's son.
She added: "When I was shopping for my dress, I found that the experience really varied from shop to shop. I want every bride to feel equally special, whether they're paying £400 or £3,000. I started looking at venues and was initially interested in a site in Droylsden, but this shop was a bigger unit, the location is really bustling and busy and the numbers worked much better, with the business rates sale.
'This rates sale is a great idea. We've brought something totally new Heywood' – owner Kerry Russell
"I think this initiative is great for the high street. There is no other bridal shop in Heywood, so we're bringing something totally new to the area. We're already really invested in the borough and will be doing the catwalk show at the Rochdale Wedding Show this April. We had a great experience there last year, so we're looking forward to going back."
The unit was home to a photography shop, but had been empty for around 1 year before Lavinia Rose opened.
Council leader, Councillor Richard Farnell, said: "This stunning shop, a fantastic addition to Heywood's high street, is a great example of the kind of thriving local business which our rates sale has helped bring in. Big bills like business rates can really deter investment so, by removing these barriers, our council is sending out the message that we're very much open for business. We've already seen big changes in Rochdale town centre and it's great to see Heywood benefitting too."
'Rochdale wedding show takes place on Sunday, 2 April 2017'
Rochdale Wedding Show, which is FREE to attend, takes place on Sunday 2 April 2017 from 11am to 3pm at the town hall. Catwalk shows will take place at 12.30pm and 2pm and all visitors will be offered a complimentary glass of prosecco.
Financial support for new businesses - find out more about the Rochdale business rates sale, and other grants available to local businesses.