Artful Codger, by Roger May, October 24, 2014

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It was really heartening to read the Lynn News story about toy and nursery shop Youngsters World celebrating 21 years of trading in Lynn’s Norfolk Street.

In an age when we hear so much doom and gloom about the prospects for trading in local town centres, the success of Youngsters World stands out as a wonderful example of how to succeed in a harsh business climate.

Since the business was first set up as The Match Box, later being renamed Youngsters World, the owners, husband and wife John and Liz Harrison, and Liz’s brother, Paul Sanderson, have seen it go from strength to strength.

What is perhaps most striking about their success is that they have achieved it both through the topsy-turvy business environment of the past two decades, as well as being in a part of Lynn town centre – Norfolk Street –that has been subjected to much upheaval in that time, especially with the impact on the area of the opening of a multi-storey car park on the other side of the town centre and the resultant changes in footfall around the centre.

Throw in the ever-growing competition from internet shopping, together with the emergence of the toy superstore industry, and the success of a comparatively small independent outfit begins to look even more impressive.

During the years I worked as special projects editor at the Lynn News, writing advertising features and producing special publications geared to boost local business and commerce, I was able to see at first hand the aspirations and struggles of small local businesses to survive and progress in a market that seems to change and became more competitive at a bewildering pace.

It’s a very tough environment, and the Youngsters World team can take enormous pride on their successful growth over those 21 years.

Interestingly, one of the reasons they give for their success is that they particularly tailor their stock to suit their local community, one example being that they stock lots of farming toys which are popular in an agricultural region like West Norfolk, but would not probably sell as well in the big cities.

Indeed, it is this attention to detail that I continually found in other successful local small companies over the years, and is one of the reasons I still make the effort to wander around areas of the town such as Norfolk Street and seek out the smaller independent traders who provide such a high level of personal service.

I have always found Norfolk Street a most fascinating place to visit over the years because it is such a volatile trading area. While I have seen many businesses along the street come and go, either to bigger locations as they grew or, sadly, to perish as their markets declined, there have always been newcomers ready to step in and give it a go with their own particular dream.

As a bellweather of Lynn town centre, Norfolk Street tends to indicate which way the wind is blowing, at least in terms of the local economy. Certainly, in the past two or three years there have been a number of fresh faces along the street, and they must surely take encouragement from the success of Youngsters World, who are still thriving after more than two decades on the local scene. Well done – and keep it up.