Otley: How a traditional Yorkshire market town might be turning 'a bit hip' with independent shops on the high street
This West Yorkshire town, with a market held here since 1227, was among the first to hold a Royal Market Charter and to this day sees stalls three times a week.
Now with a new tourism video to shine a light on the town's swathe of independent shops, businesses say new life is being breathed into its central squares.
There is a flourish of independent shops from florists to grocers, model-makers and bookshops, butchers, new bakers and artisan cheesemakers.
Independent studies have found that almost three quarters of shops in Otley are unique to its town centre, a figure 14 per cent higher than the national average.
Katie Burnett is chair of Otley BID, as well as owner of Otley Planters as a boutique garden shop. Increasingly, she said, Otley is becoming "a bit hip".
"The town has changed," she said. "It is still a market town, but there used to be a sense that it was retirees. Now, and it's born out by research, there's a lot of young families.
"People are working from home, they are moving to places like Otley and they do want fancy coffees and cruffins. Actually it is a bit hip."
Visit Otley has released a publicity film to shine a light on the town's shopping options, called Make It A Day For Independent Shopping.
It is produced with the support of Otley’s Town Coordination Group, including Otley Town Council, Otley BID, Otley Chamber of Trade and Otley Town Partnership.
This is the second video, with the first celebrating the town’s food and drink, arts and music scenes, produced by Endure Communications with MChar Media. The idea of marketing a town through YouTube and Instagram may be quite modern, but it's reaching a new audience.
While Yorkshire's Hebden Bridge may famously be known as one of the world's "funkiest towns", Ms Burnett said Otley may also be increasingly artsy.
The market town has a big folk music and bands scene. Exhibition space at the Otley Courthouse, with plays and a programme of entertainment.
Bridging cosmopolitan Leeds and the Yorkshire Dales, Otley is known for its famous Chevin, as well as its Wharfemeadows Park.
Otley has long had a reputation as a trading hotspot – it was one of the first towns in the country to be granted a Royal Market Charter almost 800 years ago – and that tradition continues with a market three times a week. Now though, there is also a monthly artisan farmers’ market and a town centre with a high number of specialist shops.
As well as laying claim to more than 20 traditional pubs, there are the three traditional butchers that feature in the video, Orchard Florist and hobby store Modelsport.
Over recent years, there has also been the arrival of a zero-waste grocers called Like Nana Did. Then the super-trendy S&B Fruit and Vegetables, a deli migrating from a market stall.
Now there's the independent bookshop in the market square, the artisan Underground Bakery, yoga studios, even an award-winning cheese-makers called Yorkshire Pecorino.
Independent shops are able to adapt quicker to challenges on the high street, reflected Ms Burnett. In lockdowns, many such as the bookshop had quickly launched home deliveries.
"It's people with passion," she said. "You do start to feel that vibe in a town. There is more to Otley than a chocolate-box market town. You might find it's what you're looking for."