Tips for indie retail success at Spring Fair today

Spring Fair website (2 Feb 2014). Photograph by Graham Soult

Spring Fair website (2 Feb 2014)

In what seems to be becoming a regular occurrence, I’m off to Spring Fair International at the NEC today (Monday 3 February) where – as at last year’s Autumn Fair – I’ll have the pleasure of sharing the stage with a raft of interesting and successful independents.

Where last time focused on sharing experiences of starting a retail business, today’s session – in the Trends Theatre from 13:00 to 13:45 – will explore the changes that more established indie retailers can make to maximise their return on investment, whether that’s in terms of canny marketing, having the right stock at the right time, or simply making sure that superb service is at the heart of all they do.

Panel session chaired by Graham Soult at Autumn Fair 2013 (4 Sep 2013)

Panel session chaired by Graham Soult at Autumn Fair 2013 (4 Sep 2013)

So who will I be chatting to this afternoon? Well, it will be a pleasure to meet the lovely Jenni McNeil from Pure Essence Greetings again, a Birmingham-based online store that specialises in handmade, personalised gifts, and where the creativity and exclusivity of the product is a major differentiator in a competitive marketplace.

I’ll also be joined by Lindsey Adam from Bonkers, a St Andrews-based gift shop business that she started in 1982, and that now has two shops, a small online business, and an impressive following on Twitter and Facebook.

According to Lindsey, investment over the years in IT systems and staff training has been key in maintaining Bonkers’ ongoing success and reputation for great service.

Also on the panel will be Elizabeth Hirst, the founder of Tusch und Egon, a business set up in 2012 to “share limited editions of beautiful things by contemporary artists from around the world.”

Indeed, the very name ‘Tusch und Egon’ is an anagram of the German words ‘schoen und gut’ (‘beautiful and good’), ensuring that this ethos is truly embedded in the business. Tusch und Egon sells online and also through a pop-up at the celebrated Boxpark development in Shoreditch.

Cilla and Camilla website (2 Feb 2014)

Cilla and Camilla website (2 Feb 2014)

Richard Barker, meanwhile, is the founder of the superbly named Cilla and Camilla, set up with his wife in 2011 after he took redundancy following an impressive roster of roles at multiple retailers and other major corporates.

Today, Cilla and Camilla has grown to four shops across West Dorset – including two design-led gift shops, a cookshop and a homeware store – with further openings planned for 2014. Though active on social media, Cilla and Camilla doesn’t sell online, so it will be interesting to hear Richard’s tips on how well-run high-street indies can still thrive.

Graham Soult and Alex Polizzi at Autumn Fair 2013 (4 Sep 2013)

Graham Soult and Alex Polizzi at Autumn Fair 2013 (4 Sep 2013)

So, if you’re at Spring Fair today do come along and listen to all the invaluable tips and insightful stories that these retailers will be sharing. Just as my panel session was the warm-up for the fabulous Alex Polizzi last time, this time we have Kirstie Allsopp on afterwards – so, once again, I’m expecting a good crowd!

My retail consultancy business,, helps retailers make their businesses even better: critiquing websites’ appearance and usability, creating and improving web content, proofreading web copy, and helping independent shopkeepers get to grips with social media. For more information on how can support your business, visit, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.

One Response to “Tips for indie retail success at Spring Fair today”

  1. Chloe said:

    Feb 12, 14 at 23:12


    I’m currently doing my dissertation investigating the effect in-store experience has on consumers brand loyalty, preference, satisfaction, and the brands credibility and I’m looking for those interested in the retail industry to use their insights in completing my questionnaire. Here is the link:

    It would be an amazing help if people could fill this in.

    Thank you

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