The State Of Independents

Saturday 2nd July is Independents’ Day (Fear not my American cousins, you’ve still got the 4th!). It’s a simple idea that I can get right behind. In a nutshell, it’s a day celebrating all that’s good about independent retailing. The staff, the shops, the customers. It’s also an innovative way to reward people for shopping locally, for shopping at an independent.

Many of the benefits derived from shopping at an independent store are subtle. Of course, there is expertise, originality and innovation but there are other things too. Intangibles that simply cannot be measured yet we’ve all experienced them. When you walk along a high street where the majority of retailers are independent, it just feels different. It’s difficult to define exactly what that feeling is. I guess you just, kind of, know.

One thing I unequivocally feel, when standing outside an independent, is welcome. Once inside, if the chemistry is right, a wonderful dynamic exists. You’re in no rush to leave and the staff enjoy you being there. A perfect example of this occurred last month when visiting Berlin. I paid a trip to a little record store who, barring a couple of emails, I had no dealings with previously. This excursion ended up being a highlight of the trip. It was such a welcoming environment. More akin to hanging out with buddies than shopping. Whilst, ultimately, I did make some purchases, this was secondary. What I actually made was friends!

Independent shops

With all this talk of buying from independents, my thoughts are drawn to a guilty pleasure of mine. Namely, the long-running, possibly too long-running TV series, The Apprentice. In particular, the buying task where the two teams compete to see who can purchase a specific list of items for the lowest spend possible. For those not too familiar with the series, long gone are the days when the producers chose contestants based on their potential business acumen. Now, it’s very much a case of which enormous ego is likely to provide the best TV. They rarely disappoint!

A particular highlight was one candidate who thrust themselves forward with supreme confidence. Their combined negotiating and people skills would ensure a rock-bottom price when procuring a dozen bricks from a hardware store. As it turns out, their masterplan simply consisted of referring to the owner as ‘Mate’ in a peculiar accent, paying full price and briskly exiting the premises. Wonderful stuff.

Thankfully, apart from this task always highlighting the ineptitude of the contestants, it also manages to shine a spotlight on the wonderful independent stores spread across the land. Without fail, we always get a glimpse of the dedicated owners and staff. Invariably, these shopkeepers happily go the extra yard in trying to aid the teams with their quest. Apart from providing help with the item in question, they frequently provide assistance with other items on the list. Often providing advice on other local shops which could assist or travel and logistical considerations. All this with a smile and the patience of a saint.

So, what’s the takeaway from this? I guess I’m just saying, support an independent whenever you can. It needn't just be July 2nd. There’s just as much in it for you as there is for the retailer. Trust me.

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About the Author

About the Author: Alan Smith

Meet Alan our roving reporter at Direct2florist. Amateur gardener and all-round good guy. Alan has joined the team at Direct2florist with the mission to spot greens, flowers and foliages in everyday life. We hope you enjoy his erudite observations!

By Alan Smith 06 June 2022