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Boxford businesswoman recognised for speech calling on communities to work together to help town centres thrive

A businesswoman from Boxford has secured a place in the finals of a prestigious competition after impressing judges with a speech centred on the future of the country’s high street.

During an event hosted by the Association of Speakers Clubs, Penny Wilby provided an insight into the changing landscape of town centres – and how businesses must adapt their approach if they are to survive.

Reflecting on her speech, which explored the question ‘Is the high street dead?’, Mrs Wilby, who represented the Sudbury branch, highlighted the importance of communities working closely together to help town centres thrive.

Pictured: Penny Wilby....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (22635370)
Pictured: Penny Wilby....PICTURE: Mecha Morton .... (22635370)

Hailing the collective approach in Sudbury, Mrs Wilby said: “They are really good at bringing people together and there is a resurgence with the popularity of farmers’ markets.”

Having established a strong rapport with stallholders, she said customers felt more more inclined to support local traders.

Praising the warm atmosphere at the monthly farmers’ market staged at St Peter’s, Mrs Wilby said: “There’s a real buzz about the place and that’s what we need to focus on.”

With businesses facing mounting pressures, Mrs Wilby, who runs business website thebestofSudbury, said it was vital that shoppers felt enticed into a store.

“It’s not just what we buy,” she said. “It’s the experience that we get from it. There’s always an opportunity to sell things, but it’s the coming together that’s important.”

Praising a monthly event hosted at a yarn and fabric store in Long Melford, Mrs Wilby said the session encouraged people to socialise.

“It’s a really emotive way of incorporating a hobby,” she said.

Staged at the The Woolpatch, Mrs Wilby recalled an inspiring talk by a guest speaker who had overcome depression by learning the craft of knitting.

“He knitted his way out of depression, so he was able to maintain a healthy mental state,” said the 45-year-old.

Hailing the scheme, Mrs Wilby suggested that businesses in Sudbury could host a similar event.

“I’m not saying it’s a quick fix,” she said. “But it would be a step in the right direction.”

Mrs Wilby will represent Sudbury in the south east district finals later this month while delivering a further speech.

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