Celebrating Britain’s new indie retailers at Autumn Fair
Regular readers will know that one of my favourite things about working in retail is discovering really interesting and successful independent shops – whether that’s the “new breed of web-savvy independents” who are helping to keep our high streets alive while embracing all the potential of online marketing, to innovative pureplay etailers who are using the power of the Internet to reach a niche but global audience.
It’s therefore a pleasure to be chairing a session at the Autumn Fair International trade show at the NEC tomorrow (Sunday 1 September), where I’ll be talking to two relatively new independent gift-related retailers about their experiences so far: the stories of what inspired them to set up their stores; how they’re dealing with all the day-to-day tasks and challenges, from buying to marketing; and what tips they would share with anyone else looking to set up or grow a successful independent retail business.
So, if you’re around at Autumn Fair tomorrow, do come along to the Talking Point Seminar Theatre from 13:20 to 13:50, where we’ll be doing our best to be a first-class warm-up act for the superb Alex Polizzi – of TV’s ‘The Fixer’ and ‘The Hotel Inspector’ – who is talking on the same stage in the slot immediately afterwards.
That’s not to say that our own session won’t be an equally brilliant and enlightening half hour, of course. I’ll be joined by Jenni McNeil (@PureEssenceBham on Twitter) who’s the Founder of Pure Essence Greetings, an online cards, gifts and keepsakes business based just down the road in Birmingham; and Anna Bowman (@BlairgowrieFT on Twitter), the Founder of All Things Fair, a fair trade and ethical gifts retailer that operates from both a high-street shop in Blairgowrie and on the Internet. Both Jenni and Anna, I’m sure, will have interesting stories and insights to share.
Jenni previously owned a business in a totally different sector, using her creativity to support young people in the local community. However, that business had to be wound down as a result of government cuts to community funding, prompting Jenni to apply her creativity in the retail sector instead. The result was Pure Essence Greetings: a store that specialises in personalised gifts “using the expression of poetry”.
Initially she opened a physical shop in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, but soon decided that the business’ strengths lay in serving an online audience, offering luxury personalised gifts that are exclusive to Pure Essence Greetings and not found anywhere else.
Meanwhile, Anna’s background is as someone who has always passionately supported fair trade and been involved locally as a fairtrader. This originally involved supplying local groups – mainly churches and schools – on a sale or return basis, but as this market grew she made the decision to open a permanent store. All Things Fair opened in Blairgowrie High Street – just a stone’s throw from the ex-Woolworths I visited back in May – in June 2009, with the online store following in June this year.
So, I’m very much looking forward to meeting Jenni and Anna, learning more about them and their stores, and hopefully honing some skills as I attempt to be the Michael Parkinson of the retail world.
If you can, do join us!
My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, 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 CannyInsights.com can support your business, visit www.cannyinsights.com, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.