A unique household, white goods and financial services store has opened in the centre of Bolton.
The store, named ‘The Square’, is one of the first in the UK being opened by a council and its partners.
Bolton Council has teamed up with Bolton at Home, Hoot Credit Union and Age UK to open the shop, located in the former Millets Store on Victoria Square.
The shop will offer all residents across the borough access to furniture and white goods at an affordable price and with the option of low cost credit.
It is aimed as an alternative to some high street stores which offer weekly payments for goods at high rates of interest. There will also be opportunities for people to access a range of money and debt advice.
Residents can walk into the new retail unit and look at furniture and white goods on display. There will also be an online catalogue of further goods available through the council and Bolton at Home’s suppliers.
Once customers have identified a purchase, they can purchase the item outright, or be directed to Hoot Credit Union, where they can discuss a loan for purchasing the item, with affordable rates of interest. If they wish to get money advice, customers can also be referred to the council’s money skills and benefits advisors.
As well as offering affordable loans to residents on goods, Hoot Credit Union also has its own section of The Square for its services. Anyone will be able to drop into The Square to join, to make deposits or withdrawals and access their accounts.
Age UK Bolton also has a base in the retail unit, where residents are able to access a wide range of products and services. The Information and Advice service covers benefits & entitlements, pensions, housing, home and residential care, will-making service and free legal advice. Age UK also offer travel, car and home insurance and funeral plans and energy packages.
The Square will also act as a gateway to Age UK’s Befriending service, its network of lunch & leisure clubs and the Home from Hospital service that provides practical and emotional support for people who have just left hospital.
The store is funded by the council and its partners, with the council’s share coming from its £1m anti-poverty fund.
Bolton Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Social Inclusion, Councillor Kate Lewis, said: “We’re really pleased that this store is now open. We hope that the combination of affordable household goods, financial services and money advice provided by the council, the credit union and its partners will assist people on low incomes with buying goods, without getting into further debt.
However, the store will offer something for everyone in Bolton, from affordable white goods, to ethical savings accounts, and from money advice to travel insurance.”
David Batten, Manager of Hoot Credit Union said: “The credit union does not just provide credit to people who are financially excluded or in debt, but is a safe and ethical place for anyone to save or borrow money, so we would encourage any residents looking for a new savings account or loan to come and chat to us.”
Suzanne Hilton from Age UK Bolton said: “Why not come and see us in our new home at The Square to find out about everything that we have on offer through Age UK to make your later life a little more comfortable? While you’re there do join us in a cuppa at our Brew Station on the ground floor, where you can browse the literature or just have a chat with one of our friendly staff or volunteers.”