Thistles offers one lucky hairdresser or barber free retail space for six months

– The latest initiative in the #ThistlesHelps campaign will see one local business benefit from a free unit in the centre, alongside additional business support from partner Go Forth –

Thistles is offering one local business the opportunity to operate from its city centre shopping centre completely free of charge for six months, under its #ThistlesHelps campaign, in a bid to further support the local community.

This follows the success of the inaugural business competition in 2021, which saw Centre Stage Dancewear win six months free retail space, after which they signed a contract to lease a unit in the centre, becoming a permanent retailer.

The competition aims to support hairdressers and barbers from across Stirling and Forth Valley, who are being encouraged to apply for the opportunity to expand into the centre of Stirling in a former hairdressing unit.

Not only will the winning business be given a 1,054 sq ft unit to operate from completely free of charge for six months, with all rent covered, but they’ll also receive support from partner Go Forth who will cover all utility charges and provide access to free WiFi and training, alongside a shop front grant scheme to aid with store signage.

Go Forth will also offer an eCommerce grant scheme that can be used to support any online activity, such as marketing and SEO development, as well as welcoming the winning business to become a member of Stirling BID, through which they’ll gain access to a number of other benefits.

Reminiscent of a Dragon’s Den style pitch, local hairdressers and barbers who would benefit from the space are being asked to submit their proposed plans and explain why being part of Thistles will help them.

Leigh White, co-owner of Centre Stage Dancewear, winner of the last #ThistlesHelps local businesses competition, commented: “Winning the competition with Thistles allowed us to expand into Stirling long before we would have been able to otherwise. Since opening our doors in Thistles we have welcomed visitors from across the city and further afield, into Fife, Dundee and Perthshire, allowing us to bring our offering to dance enthusiasts and their families across Scotland.

“Alongside reaching a new audience, our space at Thistles has also allowed us to expand our pointe shoe fitting service to support even more dancers. For anyone considering applying for the competition I would encourage you to go for it. It’s a fantastic opportunity to reach a new market free of charge, allowing you to increase your customer base and grow your business.

“When we opened at Thistles we knew we wanted to offer something different, which is why we’ve made our shop so interactive – with everything from a dance stage through to ballet bars and costumes – providing shoppers with an unforgettable experience. I would urge the winning business to consider what they could do over and above the usual offering to make sure they stand out and make an impact in the local market.”

Gary Turnbull, Centre Director at Thistles, commented: “Following the success of our inaugural business competition last year we are delighted to be bringing it back and offering hairdressers and barbers the opportunity to benefit from free retail space in our city centre shopping mall. The last two years have been hard for so many businesses, which is why we want to do our part to support them in their recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic by providing an opportunity to reach a new market.

“I would urge any hairdressing and barber businesses in the surrounding areas to apply to be in with the chance of replicating Centre Stage Dancewear’s success. I look forward to reading through the applications and meeting entrepreneurs from across Stirling and Forth Valley.”

All entries will be reviewed by a judging panel who will consider the business, the impact being in the centre could have on it, and what the businesses will be able to do with the space. The judging panel will consist of Gary Turnbull, Centre Director and Claire Barrie, Retail Marketing Manager at Thistles, alongside Danielle McRorie-Smith, Project Director at Go Forth.

Danielle McRorie-Smith, Project Director at Go Forth, added: “Stirling has a fantastic spirit of local entrepreneurship which sets us apart from other Cities, over 40 new businesses like Centre Stage have opened since the beginning of the pandemic and we are delighted to see them thrive.

“This is the perfect time and opportunity for Go Forth and Thistles to join forces again, investing in Stirling by supporting another new business and provide the tools and support to help their founders make them a reality.

“The most important part of this project is giving a new business the chance to take that vital first step. We know a main concern of new businesses is finding the funding to get started, which is why we’re delighted to be able to offer a helping hand.”

Entrants should submit their bid to no later than Friday 11th March, with the winner announced by the end of April.

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