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

Back in July I was a keynote speaker, at the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre's (NRRKEC), annual Retail Symposium. The theme of which was Innovative Independent Retail. The NRRKEC is part of Nottingham Trent University’s Business School.

Me talking about indie retail in Nottingham

Me talking about indie retail in Nottingham

I was honoured to be asked to speak amongst so many prominent retail experts. I learnt a lot from the day both from other retailers, consultants and delegates and wanted to share this with you.

My speech was 30 minutes long covering community, collaboration and networking for independent retail (which I thought would be a challenge to fill but in fact was difficult to limit to my time slot!). So I’ve split the speech up over 3 blogs covering the areas of community, networking and collaboration. And how you can use this information to make your shop more successful.

If you’d like to watch my speech it’s here - apologies about the quality!

I started by talking about why indie retail is so important and the benefits it brings to a local area and economy. It provides a unique experience for shoppers and differentiates towns and cities from each other. Every £10 spent in an independent shop is worth £50 to the local economy (stats from They also support over 3x the number of jobs as supermarkets for the same amount spent. They help to drive big businesses into the city centre by providing an attractive city centre and keep residents wanting to live there, they are the lifeblood of a City.

A community is a social group that resides or congregates in the same area and shares something in common. It provides kinship, a sense of belonging and helps to negate loneliness and isolation. The can help promote affinity with others and build a sense of identity. In the current challenging times people are starting to remember the importance of community and the role it plays in making an area desirable to live in.

When you take a look back at history, you’ll find that the most influential people in the world never got there alone. Instead they were part of a community of friends, peers, and mentors who helped push them to become the people they were destined to be. (

Being part of a community helps to build your network and raises your profile as well as providing support and making you feel happier! This is the case in both your personal and business life.

With a community of customers you will have an endless supply of feedback on the products you stock and the direction your company needs to move in. You’ll know what your customers problems, needs and desires are and will always be aware of new trends and ideas.

By building a strong community you can help to improve the area in which you work, from the block or high street you are located in to the village, town or city as a whole. Social interactions make people happier!

Small businesses are a valuable asset to the local community they donate to local charities, provide local knowledge to visitors and build relationships with customers who are often local. They also create local jobs and help local schools, colleges and Universities.

So what can you do to build a community? Well it all starts by talking and listening to others.

- Could you start a regular craft group at your shop or in conjunction with a local café?

- Do you talk to your customers on social media and ask them for feedback? Being present on social media and showing your face helps to build a community with your shops most important assets – the people that buy from you!

- Could you run special events and run preview evenings at your shop to show your customers how special they are.

- Do you have an email list and send regular newsletters?

- Could you run customer focus groups to find out what products, events, or info people would like to see?

- Would a facebook group be a good way to communicate with your fan base?

- Do you know other shopkeepers and business owners on your street or in your area? Could you set up a meeting where you share support and advice and meet others to potentially collaborate with (more on that in the next blog!)

What’s your experience of building a community? Comment below or send me a message with your experiences.