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The Importance of Independents

What I've learnt working for an indie business...

I've been a part of the Elk & Wolf team for just under two years now and in that short space of time my interest and understanding of the retail industry has completely changed. My experience working for an independent retail business has also changed the way I shop and how I evaluate my experiences as a customer.

I never wanted to work in retail, during university I had my part time department store job and it was definitely something that I did not want to turn into a full time career. Retail is hard. The mainstream industry is as competitive as it’s ever been as brands try to maintain their customer’s interests with constant promotions, sales and offers. With so much focus on footfall, conversion and turnover it’s fair to argue that shopping on the high street has lost its personal touch.

When we shop on the high street we are not buying things we need, we’re buying them because we want or desire them, so why is it that quite often it just isn’t fun anymore? Especially around Christmas and seasonal holidays, it has become quite a stressful experience. We feel obliged to fight our way through shops and departments to check off lists and stand in long queues just to be hurried through the checkout. Shopping should be relaxing and enjoyable, it should be interactive, personal and it should be worth it! So here’s why I think your time and money is better invested in independent shopping…

Buying from independents is a great way to shop that benefits both you as a customer and the business owner. When you shop independently you are buying into a service and experience as well as your physical goods. The point of indie businesses is that they are individual, with a unique collection of products that won’t be reproduced anywhere else. Indie owners take a lot of time to carefully curate, source and even produce products so that their customers are getting something totally different. Shopping independently is so much more personal as well in terms of the type of service you’ll receive. Your custom is valuable to these businesses so they are going to do everything they can to make sure you have the best experience possible in their store.

When you shop small you’ve also got an opportunity to interact and connect with others. Independent shops are important parts of local communities as they reflect the culture and interests of the people that live there. You can also support that community more widely. The knock on effect from buying independent is not only for the shopkeeper, but also for all the makers and designers that they support. Independent shops provide our local high streets with a sense of identity and character, something that should be valued to avoid every city and town centre becoming a string of identical shop fronts.

Having worked in retail for larger national stores and now for a small independent, I have learnt from the latter that retail actually can be really personal, passionate and creative. So much love and care goes into running a small business for the benefit of us as customers so let's support them and shop small where we can. Christmas shopping doesn't have to be dreaded. Take a detour from the crowds and shop more thoughtfully, you might just find that quirky little boutique off the beaten track with the most perfect gift waiting to be given.

 

We will be promoting Small Business Saturday UK on 1st December.
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