Into the Spotlight, sponsored by Huddersfield-based Scriba PR, is a regular feature which highlights some great businesses. Here we profile Handmade in Huddersfield run by Ant Gotts.
Handmade in Huddersfield is leading a rise in independent shops in Huddersfield town centre.
Since the shop opened in October, Handmade in Huddersfield in the Imperial Arcade has exceeded even the most optimistic projections of owner Ant Gotts.
As the name suggests, Handmade in Huddersfield is a gift shop selling artisan products all made in Huddersfield. Along with Ant’s own products, he stocks items from 22 Huddersfield makers and crafters.
From artwork to pottery and candles, leather goods and woollen blankets to wood carvings – and Ant’s own unique brand of floristry – the shop showcases the best in Huddersfield artisan talent.
Business has got off to a flying start and Ant said: “Since we opened in mid-October it’s been great and much busier than I thought it would be.
“My business plan was knocked back a couple of times but up to Christmas the turnover was nearly three times more than I estimated in my business plan, which shows it wasn’t over-optimistic after all.”
Ant, 39, got into crafting after a devastating athletics accident in Finland 15 years ago that left him with terrible injuries. A 400m hurdler, it was a long jump accident which left him with a shattered pelvis, slipped disc, torn muscles and damaged nerves.
“I was in hospital for two months flat on my back and at home for another three months and I couldn’t move my legs for two years,” said Ant.
“I started crafting to give myself something to do. I’d never done craft or art before but I’d done so much while I was out of action I opened a market stall hoping to cover my costs.”
Handmade in Rossendale started out on Rawtenstall Market and it snowballed from there. Ant’s partner is from Huddersfield and they moved over here, and now live in Dalton.
Ant, who still needs a crutch to walk, gave up Rawtenstall Market and ran his business from Huddersfield. Around 18 months ago he looked at taking a unit at Queensgate Market but that was being run down ahead of its closure.
Ant waited for a few months and monitored footfall in Huddersfield town centre before deciding on a shop in the Imperial Arcade.
“When I first started looking there were nine empty units in the arcade, now there’s only two, and I think the smallest will be taken pretty quickly,” he said.
Ant believes independent retailers are the future for Huddersfield and said: “There’s no need for a John Lewis or a Marks & Spencer in a town centre anymore.
“If it’s a quality department store you can buy what you want online. Town centres need to be independent and different, selling things that people will make a journey to buy.
“I don’t understand people getting upset that there’s no M&S in Huddersfield when people only visited once a year for Christmas presents anyway.
“For town centres to survive they need something different and unique and more of an experience. We’re not in the 1970s anymore.”
Ant has been a one-man-band so far, working 14-hour days which start at the flower market at 5am and end with some accounting or administration at 7pm. He also worked for 104 days straight before Christmas but he’ll soon be looking for some help in the shop to give him more time to produce his own artwork.
Over Christmas he completed a pen and ink drawing of a 1910 mill scene in Huddersfield. The picture, which has a little of the Lowry style about it, will be in the shop next week and 50 prints have been produced.
Ant is also proud of his window displays which will be a real feature going forward. His display was voted Huddersfield’s best-dressed Christmas window in a competition run by Huddersfield BID.
There was a snowy ski slope with ducks and it was all made out of recycled packaging. “It was a real Blue Peter window with lots of masking tape and scrunched up boxes,” said Ant.
Next up for Ant is a Valentine’s Day window and he’ll also be continuing to go through the 300 applications from Huddersfield makers who want to sell through his shop.
“All the makers must have a HD postcode and if anyone else wants to get in touch the best way is to message through Instagram and I will get back to them,” said Ant.
Ant has also appeared on TV on Jay’s Yorkshire Workshop with Jay Blades, of The Repair Shop fame, and is pictured in the main image above (top) with fellow craftsman Les.