York shop closing after 19 years – and why that isn’t bad news

Snowhome on Gillygate. Photograph: Richard McDougall
13 Jan 2020 @ 7.11 pm
| Business

A trend-setting shop has announced it is going to close after 19 years in York.

Independent design store Snowhome opened on Gillygate in 2001. Its last day of trading will be on Saturday 28 March.

And although Snowhome’s disappearance will disappoint the many customers who treasured the unusual and beautiful products found there, its owner has made it clear that this is part of a wider business success story.

Angus McArthur set up Snowhome ‘to source and sell inventive items’. Then last year he created The York Ghost Merchants with former director of Paragon Creative David Bloodworth, a shop on Shambles selling ghostly gifts crafted to Angus’s design.

This has enjoyed a great opening few months, and is now where he wants to invest most of his energy.

New model for retailing

Snowhome before it downsized
Although Snowhome began as a shop, it developed into something more. By 2007 Angus was designing products which are now sold worldwide.

Sister business The Model Cyclist was developed in-store. Its bespoke, hand-painted model cyclist figures sell internationally.

And it is this creative and multi-layered approach to retailing that Angus sees as the future of the High Street.

In a message to mark the closure announcement Angus said:

  • The creative and collaborative side of Snowhome has been at the heart of the shop and what has sustained its growth since the 2008 recession.

    There’s no doubt in my mind now more than ever that creativity and productivity need to be the driving forces behind a new generation of bricks and mortar stores.

    It is my view that the traditional art of shop-keeping is now outdated, the shop-keeper as curator is a romantic notion that is no longer feasible financially without ancillary revenue streams.

    The role of the shop in the new decade can perhaps be built upon the notion of making, doing, producing and selling.

Pop-up space for designers

Inside the York Ghost Merchants on Shambles. Photographs: Richard McDougall
That is certainly the case in the York Ghost Merchants shop. The ghosts are made on the premises, and there are plans to let people make their own.

And ghost story evenings are also on the agenda for the future.

Angus says he has enjoyed the fact that Snowhome became a social hub as well as a shop, and that customers became friends.

“Real face-to-face social interaction is not possible online in virtual shops and as we lose shops we risk losing vital components of our local communities,” he said.

Although Snowhome will shut in March after a closing down sale, Angus is going to keep it as a pop-up space for designers, makers and creatives until August. Get in touch with him via [email protected] if you’re interested.