How to be successful in indie retail, the importance of collaborating

The final part of my mini series is about collaboration with other independents.

Bead Shop window display in conjunction with Glasshouse Florals

Bead Shop window display in conjunction with Glasshouse Florals

When I was invited to talk at the NRRKEC annual Retail Symposium I was initially asked to speak about Successful Independent Retail – The importance of Networking. I mulled over this, whilst panicking about how on earth I could make it fill 30 minutes, and started to write my speech. It quickly became apparent that I feel networking incorporates so much more than it’s traditional meaning.  For me it’s all about building a community and collaborating with others.

Collaborating and collaboration have only recently been on my radar, though I’m kind of kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to realise their importance! To collaborate is to work with another business; often to create a product or run a project as collaboration.

I recently collaborated with two other independent stores; Handmade Nottingham a gift shop and Steele’s a hairdressing salon along with Nottingham City Council and Nottingham BID to host an Independents festival in Trinity Square. By tapping in to the local business community we put together an amazing event attended by 100’s of local families.

Independents Festival at Trinity Square in Nottingham

Independents Festival at Trinity Square in Nottingham

The day of the festival 25,000 more people visited Nottingham City centre than the previous weekend and 6000 more passed through the area with roughly 3000 getting involved in the festival. Events like these are key to developing an areas reputation as the place to visit for the best shopping and activities. 

Whilst I was researching my speech I discovered many examples of indies collaborating to increase their customer reach and buzz around their brands. Mocky-D a Nottingham vegan burger company recently collaborated with Prickly Pear Beauty a nail artist to offer discounts. Through this I discovered my new favourite meal and received a discount on a service I already use. They’ve both gained new customers from this along with a lot of free social media promotion from their customers.

I have also noticed a trend for collaboration with my mentoring clients. Tough Mary’s bakehouse who have a tiny amount of seating collaborate with a neighbouring pub – with plenty of seating but no kitchen, every month to host a pizza night. This massively boosts takings for both businesses. Shop Zero – a zero waste store, offers pop-up bring your own box cake sales. Handmade Nottingham hire their upper floor space to local artists for teaching workshops and host seasonal pop-ups from florists, plant shops and portrait artists.

 All of this increases customer reach and builds a community around shops and most importantly gets customers through the door!

Mocky-D burger & bracelet with beads from The Bead Shop and nails by Prickly Pear Beauty

Mocky-D burger & bracelet with beads from The Bead Shop and nails by Prickly Pear Beauty

Since writing my speech collaborating has really been on my mind. I have organised a plant pop up in The Bead Shops window with Glasshouse Florals. This has been brilliant for both of us, we’ve benefitted from increased interest in our window display and they’ve had a city centre space to sell from. The Bead Shop has supplied 1000’s of beads to Mocky-D to use in their kids Ha-bead meals as an eco friendly alternative to the usual plastic tat. We were able to tailor the beads to their colour scheme and put exactly the right amount of beads and elastic in each pack to make a bracelet, whilst we’ve been able to showcase the ethics behind our products and reach new customers.




Taking collaborations further I have workshops planned with several local creatives; spanning floristry, aromatherapy and beading.

Hopefully reading this has inspired you to think about how you can collaborate with other businesses to benefit you and your customers. So who could you collaborate with? It doesn’t need to be a business that sells similar things to you. 

  • Could you host a pop-up in your window space?

  • Offer a workshop taught by one of your suppliers or customers?

  • Demos by local artists and crafters

  • Could you host a mini craft fair or collaborate with other indies to run one?

  • Shopping trails in conjunction with other local shops

  • Can you display work by local artists?

  • Would you be able to host a musician during a shopping event?

  • Could you offer cakes by a local baker?

  • Would a collaboration with a local café or a pop up coffee shop work?

If you have any other ideas please comment below!