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Chippenham firm provides a touch of glass
The French are known for having some of the most beautiful window displays in the world.
But when a business moves out of a unit, leaving the windows bare, they cross the Channel to speak to a Chipp-enham business heralded as one of the world’s most successful suppliers of virtual shops.
Towns in Normandy and Lot-et-Garonne have spoken to City Dressing, based in Bumpers Farm, which create ‘installations’ that can bring an empty shop to life again.
They paint scenes to place in the shop windows to make them look as if they are occupied and thriving.
The first piece of work, installing eight new creative spaces in Domfront, Normandy, has now resulted in a nomination for a commercial innovation award given by CREDOC (centre de recherche pour l'étude et l'observation des conditions de vie).
Clémence Brandolin-Robert, head of economy and commerce at Fumel commune in the Lot-et-Garonne department, spotted a report on the award in the French newspaper France Soir and decided to hire the company to transform a huge empty eyesore at an historic and important road junction in her own town. The end result covers three sides of the store with a virtual library measuring over 500sqm.
It is the first part of a wider regeneration project in Fumel covering 20 empty shops.
The project took a team of four a total of 10 hours to complete in late July.
Jeremy Rucker, director of City Dressing, said: “Our approach wins kudos for its artistic appeal but there’s also an important commercial aspect to it. One of our strongest selling points is that 20 per cent of the units we improve get leased within six months of the image going up.”
Mr Rucker, who has always lived in the Chippenham area, said that while the company usually works in more deprived areas in cities, there is increasingly a need for the service in market towns too.
“The services we offer are becoming much more relevant in smaller market towns,” he said.
“It’s a way of detracting attention from empty shops, and it’s a step on the journey of getting them back into use again. We want to do local business – we’ve done work in Trowbridge and Calne before.” City Dressing, which is new to Chippenham, having moved from West London earlier this year, has installed more than 2,000 virtual shops in windows all across Europe and the UK.
One of the company’s most famous projects in Dungannon, Northern Ireland, saw Perry Street transformed from a run-down terrace of derelict and boarded up properties into a living street, complete with new ‘interiors’ seen through refurbished shop windows.
Mr Rucker said being in Chippenham has many benefits for the company. “For a time, there were more benefits for us being in London,” he said.
“But it’s always something we’ve wanted to do. I’ve always lived in this area, and I was commuting to London for work. We have more of a focus on High Streets now, and Chippenham is the perfect location for us.”