A INDEPENDENT trader has spoken of her sadness at her decision to shut up shop after five years in Bradford.

Tracey Lavelle, 45, has run the Little Shop of Soaps from Sunbridgewells since the transformed underground complex opened its doors in 2016.

Before that, she ran the shop from Kirkgate Market but decided to move in a bid to grow the business.

But she says a lack of footfall - among other factors - has left her with no option but to close the store, which sells handmade soaps and luxury bathroom products.

Tracey said: “The reason we have been able to survive the year is because of the loyal customer base that came with me.”

She added: “When I speak to customers, a lot don’t feel safe shopping in Bradford anymore."

She said free parking being stopped on a Sunday also had an impact, as well as the general look of the city and the demise of Darley Street.

Tracey said something had to give and while she has enjoyed being in Sunbridgewells, she suggested marketing could have been better.

“They have supported me where they have been able to, but unfortunately it’s a lot of different factors," she said. "I think it has been a bad year for retail in general."

Despite her sadness, Tracey said she felt the Business Improvement District (BID) would be a positive for the city.

And although she is closing the shop at the end of the month, the business will still run online at www.littleshopofsoaps.com.

“I’ve loved it,” she said. “I’m really thankful for all the people who have supported us.”

Graham Hall, of Yeadon-based developer Sunbridgewells, said: “Tracey has been a marvellous tenant. I wish she was staying because she has been an asset.”

He said the tunnels do get footfall from Sunbridge Road and the complex advertises across its social media platforms, but added that marketing can always improve.

However, he said general signage pointing towards people towards the complex had been an issue, as they didn’t go up until a number of months after opening.

A Bradford Council spokesperson said footfall in the city has increased since The Broadway opened, but is aware this has been concentrated in certain areas and it will continue with programmes to drive up footfall. The spokesperson added that crime figures show Bradford is safe, if not safer than most major UK cities, but the Council is working to develop initiatives to make the city more welcoming and "significant funds" have been invested in improving the appearance of the city centre.

They said a new wayfinding scheme helps people make their way around the city centre and the Council would continue to work with landlords of vacant shops to make them more attractive to shoppers and investors.