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Support independent retailers!

Support independent retailers!

I was heartened to read statistics from the British Independent Retailers Association (bira) the other day that highlighted the fact that more traditional independent shops opened than closed during 2016. There were an additional 159 independent shops to choose from in Britain last year – hurrah!

Bira reported that the sectors that increased by the greatest number of units included those in health and beauty and tattoo parlours – we care about how we look. The leisure sector also saw good growth with more restaurants and cafes – we also like to eat out (perhaps it’s an opportunity to show off our new nails or tattoo…).

Nowadays, I try not to clamber up on to my soap box too often, but as a small, independent business which has to compete against some very big and powerful corporations, this was music to my ears. Without the unusual and quirky one-off independent establishments, life would be far duller. Who wants to walk down a high street that has the same store fronts? Yes, it’s useful to have phone shops, fast food outlets and the opportunity to donate to charity, but there is a danger that high streets become homogeneous.

Luckily, in this part of Somerset there are plenty of independent shops to choose from. The beautiful city of Wells (just a couple of miles from me) has a fantastic array and more ‘independents’ have recently arrived. Venture a few miles further from The Cross you’ll come across Frome. Here, the Frome Independent has an award-winning monthly market that showcases all manner of produce and products. They estimate that this initiative brings 80,000 people a year to Frome and generates around £2.5 million in revenue for the town’s independent traders, retailers and hospitality businesses.


However, the award for having the most ‘independents’ goes to a town very close to me; Glastonbury. According to bira, 85.6% of Glastonbury’s retailers are independent. That fantastic statistic places Glastonbury ahead of the other 500 town centres measured in the analysis.

Competing against the ‘big boys’ isn’t easy. Independents don’t usually have large marketing budgets or teams of specialist advisers to call on. We rely mainly on having a fantastic (and often unique) product and providing a brilliant level of customer service. For us, promotion is often by word of mouth or by using cost effective social media (writing blogs for example!).

In the run up to Christmas it can all get a little crazy. Time can be short and it’s all too easy to use a certain online company to buy all your gifts from. Please try and support your independent retailers. You may well end up with a gift that is a real one-off and you’ll be supporting someone whose business means so much to them. Oh, and if you fancy shopping in Frome, Glastonbury or Wells I know a fantastic, independent place you can stay at…

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