Defining an Independent Retailer by @FTomShay #IndieRetail

This blog was writted by Tom Shay, co-founder of Independent Retailer Month Worldwide and is a fitting start to the blog-a-day for Indie Retail!

“Travelling between my two home towns, you pass through communities that can be defined as small, smaller, and very tiny. Within these communities you will see signs of those who believe in their community; not just by their words, but by their actions and their money.

By opening a small business you are saying “I’ve seen a need and I am going to help”

Not unique to these small communities, these believers can be found in large cities and mid-size cities; these believers will step into action anywhere there is a number of people who are looking for something. In a community or neighborhood, you will find these individuals and the results of their efforts.

These are the people who have opened a small business. This person, who has chosen to open that small business, is saying to their community, “I see a need and am going to help. I will create that business, take the gamble, and help my community.”

The business may be a pharmacy, a DIY store, a grocery store, a newsagents; it may be a shop that sells clothes, shoes, toys, bicycles, electronics or any number of items that people use. The business could be a hairdresser or the person that cuts the grass or landscapes your lawn. Independent retailers takes on many shapes and sizes…

Local business can tailor their offering to the needs and wants of the local community

The business they chose to create will be unique as the products and services they offer are tailored to the wants and needs of those that live in the area. The owner of this business will ask the residents what they are looking for and how that business can make the lives of customers more enjoyable. The business is likely to change as the community changes as well as when the residents develop new wants and needs. The owner of the business is easily adaptive to the community because that business owner lives in the community.

Investment in the community goes far beyond merely opening a business to serve the community…

The person owning that small business is also going to be active in their community by participating in the merchants association. This person will be among the first to join in any effort that makes the community better for those that chose to live there. It may be creating a park, supporting a youth sports team, doing something for the children attending the local schools, or helping a local house of worship; this person will be there to support and help their community. Their investment in the community goes far beyond the business they have opened.

The independent retailer is a champion for the community. This person can find the good in everything; they are proud of, and a proud member of their community.

Opening a business is a gamble; a gamble based on a belief…

Another word for ‘belief’ is ‘gamble’, for opening this business is truly a gamble. There is never a guarantee that the new business in the community will succeed. The owner expresses their belief by taking their personal money and investing in the creation of the business. The money may come from what has been saved over the years; the money may come from mortgaging or selling their home to make this investment in the community. It is an investment that says, ‘I believe in this community’.

There is no guaranteed income for a business owner – an entrepreneur…

Unlike those that have jobs working for a business, these people have no guarantee; no promise of a paycheck at the end of the week. They are doing what they do because they want to help their community. They do it because they are very talented individuals that have a strong sense of being an entrepreneur to their endeavor. Owning the business is a challenge they thrive on. You can see the enjoyment of the challenge in the smile they greet their customers with as the customer comes into the business.  You can hear the excitement of their business in their voice as they visit with the customer.

Doing business with this independent retailer is sheer enjoyment because that retailer truly appreciates and enjoys their customers; their neighbours.

As consumers within a community, there is no responsibility to shop with a locally owned business. It is not ‘the duty’ of residents to support the business. Instead, the locally owned business works hard to invite individuals to visit the store; to be greeted and waited on by their fellow residents.

This shopping experience will be one that is unique to each locally owned business – you won’t find the same products, services, staff, or atmosphere in any other business. It will be like walking through a forest and listening to all the birds that live there. What a dull world it would be if all the birds sang the same song!

This is what the independent retailer brings to the community.”


About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email
This entry was posted in Blog-a-day for Indie Retail, Independent Retailer Month 2011, Service, The Retail Champion and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Defining an Independent Retailer by @FTomShay #IndieRetail

  1. ShoesieQ says:

    What a brilliant start to Independent Retail month! Have just seen your sneak preview of the next week & will definitely be reading them all!

  2. Pingback: A preview of first 7 blogs for blog-a-day for #IndieRetail | Clare Rayner: The Retail Champion

  3. UniqueOxford says:

    The inspiring words on this opening piece are great and do reflect the attitudes and views of many independent businesses, but the author is perhaps a little rosy-eyed and forgets that fundamentally the owners are running a business and that business will fail or succeed by dint of whether it is a ‘good’ business – provide products that people want, ensure you always give brilliant customer service and remember that profits are rightly often a key motivation for any business owner.

    Of course, all businesses should care for the community in which they are based and this is much more likely when that business is a single business and the owner(s) are members of the community – and indeed multiples are a negative influence precisely because they are focussed on channelling profits away from the communities in which they are sited.

    In the end, as much as any community may feel strongly about a local, independent retailer, they will only start or continue to give their custom if the retailer gives good value (not necessarily cheapest, but a good price for the quality of what they sell) and excellent customer service. These will turn a great business idea into a profitable business, which in the end is why they opened it in the first place, most likely – they saw an opportunity to make their living, to be successful, by converting their skills or talent into hard cash!

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