Popular boutique Leaf Clothing stays firmly planted following lockdown

The owner of an independent boutique in Newcastle that has served customers for more than 40 years has secured bank funding to keep the business going during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Leaf Clothing has completed its first month of trading since reopening to the public, 42 years on from when it first opened its three-storey fashion boutique on Pilgrim Street.

The firm recently secured funding from Barclays through the Government-backed Bounce Back Loan Scheme to keep trading through the coronavirus crisis, and owner Brian Smith says he is relieved and fortunate to keep trading.

The store, run by Mr Smith and his wife Josie, holds a selection of exclusive and unusual brands for both men and women, and prides itself on its interactive and personal shopping experience for customers.

The clothes store was forced to temporarily shut its doors during the Coronavirus pandemic lockdown, bringing any kind of income to a halt.

The Leaf Clothing team applied for funding from Barclays through the Government-backed Bounce Back Loan scheme, which successfully helped to ease the pressure on their cash flow.

Mr Smith was also able to pay full wages to his five members of staff – who have been with the business for over 35 years – which he was able to claim back through the furlough scheme.

The husband and wife team used the time whilst the shop was shut to organise the business, which included donating a number of bags of brand new clothing to charity during these difficult times.

It reopened in June with social distancing measures in place, only allowing three customers on each of its three floors at any one time.

Mr Smith said: “For us, the priority is not the sale, but the continuing business that we have with our customers and I think this is shown in our loyal customers coming back time and time again.

“I do the menswear and my wife, Josie, does the womenswear. We’re honest with our customers – if it doesn’t look quite right, we say so – I think that honesty is appreciated.

““We’re so pleased to be back and the support from our customers has been phenomenal – it’s given us a new lease of life with the business.

“No one knows what the next few months hold, so having the Bounce Back Loan has been great as it’s helped us to get over a couple of hurdles. We’ve been with Barclays for just under 40 years and always had great service and good managers.

“I still have some concerns about stock coming in and supplier cancellations. Next summer will be tough for the clothing industry as we work so far in advance for each seasons’ collection.

“In my 42 years of running the business, this has been the strangest time.

“It’s also been the longest time I’ve had off from work ever! I don’t think it’ll be back to normal by any means just yet, but I feel fortunate that we’ve been able to sustain the business and get back to the shop.”

The funding package was put in place by Barclays business manager, Ryan Quinn, who added: “Brian runs a longstanding business with the bank and it’s terrific to have been able to support him with finance that allows the business to get back into trading again.”

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