Two independent gift shops – one in Stowmarket, Suffolk and one in Worcester - have been named on the shortlist of retailers in the running to be named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2020.
Cornucopia, a family run, independent, home and gift shop in Worcester, whose ethos is all about quality and individuality, stocks both iconic British brands such as Emma Bridgewater, Plum & Ashby and Repeat Repeat as well as products with a Danish influence that originated with the business founders, including luxury brands Dansk Smykkekunst, Bahne, Cozy Living and Broste Copenhagen. During lockdown it opened a Trouva boutique online with owners Clare and Hannah Bishop taking products home from the shop and turning their garage into a distribution centre. This enabled them to focus on distributing products to customers all over the world as well as giving them the confidence and incentive to open their own online shop.
And Ruby and the Angel, an independent retailer in Debenham, near Stowmarket, which offers a range of gifts and presents including jewellery, scarves, handbags and cards, and which has been open for twelve years, is a small shop with an ever changing product range. Owner Tammy King is always looking for something new and exciting. The shops sources from suppliers who work with charities, and source eco-friendly, recycled and fair trade products. It has also helped stage a range of events with neighbouring businesses including fashion shows, menopause workshops, style evenings and gin tastings. The shop has even opened a concession in a local community gym to promote awareness, with all members offered a discount voucher to shop in store.
The Best Small Shops competition is managed by the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), whose member trade associations represent approximately 100,000 independent retailers throughout the UK between them. The competition celebrates the commitment and creativity of independent retailers on the UK’s High Streets and the central role they play in their local communities. It is sponsored by Maybe*, an engagement platform that helps make social media work for independent retailers. The winner will be announced next month.
In addition to the main award, Ruby and the Angel has also been shortlisted for a special award to be given to the independent retailer that has demonstrated specific innovation to combat the impact of COVID-19. This award is sponsored by booost, the loyalty, gifting and promotions app.
During lockdown, the shop utilised its website to offer free postage, free local deliveries and help to the elderly and vulnerable, and although income dried up it maintained weekly window displays to help make people smile. It sourced new stock for the website, ran competitions to keep customers engaged and hopeful, and sourced a range of handmade face masks that it delivered to people and donated a percentage of the income to NHS charities.
“We continued to grow our social media presence by running giveaways and competitions and chatted to our customers as we did deliveries in the village,” says Tammy. “During lockdown we joined the Shop Suffolk campaign to promote services and products on offer in Suffolk. And when we re-opened after lockdown in a safe and Covid-secure environment, we set up personal shopping appointments for the vulnerable and customers that did not have time to wait.”
“This has been a particularly challenging year for small, independent retailers and many have come through to this point through innovation, quality of product and service, a commitment to serve their local communities and a large dose of determination,” explains Mark Walmsley, Chair of the IRC.
“As more and more people have been forced to stay home and work from home, we have seen just how much we all value local independent shops and want to see them not just survive, but also thrive. These shops offer choice, diversity and genuine customer service. And, after what has been a rather dark year, that has to be worth celebrating.”
The annual competition highlights the best of Britain's independent retail sector, celebrating the commitment and creativity of independent retailers and the central role they play in their local communities. Previous winners have included Bristol-based delicatessen Papadeli, the 2019 winner, and The Mainstreet Trading Company, a combined bookshop, café, deli & homeware shop based in St Boswells, in the rural Scottish Borders, which won in 2018.