You’ll notice a new phrase appear on social media and in shop windows in Shaftesbury this summer with the hashtag, #IndyShaftesbury.
The town’s Chamber of Commerce is launching an initiative to celebrate the high percentage of independent businesses on Shaftesbury’s High Street. ‘Indy’ shops are considered good for the local economy and offer a reason for tourists to visit.
“There are 142 shops and businesses in the centre of the town. 102 of those are independent and that’s not even counting the Wincombe estate,” Chamber of Commerce Chairman David Perry explained. “We are very much an ‘Indy’ town.”
By the end of July, four new independent businesses will have opened in Shaftesbury’s town centre.
A number of Shaftesbury’s independent shops are long established and David says that’s worth ‘shouting about’. “Some of them were here forty or more years ago, when I was at school,” David said.
Research suggests that unique, one-off shops prove attractive to visitors. “People shop for leisure,” said David. “You can’t have much fun going around the supermarket but going around independent shops is a leisure pursuit. You’re going to find lots of interesting stuff you haven’t found before. And there’s someone behind the counter who knows what they are talking about.”
The Federation of Small Businesses has revealed that cash spent at independent retailers recirculates within the local economy. “Out of every pound that goes to the big, out-of-town national stores, about five pence stays in the local community. When you shop with independents, then up to seventy pence stays locally. That’s a massive difference,” said David.
In 2005, the think tank, the New Economic Foundation, warned of the ‘death of diversity’ as many high streets become dominated by chains. They coined the phrase ‘clone town’ to define town centres which had lost their locally owned retailers.
David says the larger towns are more likely to be dominated by the chains. “You go to any big town, you’ll see the same shops. And when one of them crashes it leaves a hole in every large town in the country. If two or three of them close then you suddenly have lots of gaps. The joy of independent stores is that when one comes to its natural end, somebody else can come in and take the space. And you need that churn to keep the High Street lively,” David suggested.
“People will argue that visiting the supermarket is quicker than shopping at the independents,” David added. “It takes longer to go to the independents because you actually talk to people. And that’s not a bad thing.”
The Shaftesbury and District Chamber of Commerce has arranged for printer Syd Guppy of Imprint to produce window stickers so that visiting and local shoppers can identify the independent traders. “This will start on the fourth of July, US Independence Day,” David said.
Independent shops that are not members of the Shaftesbury and District Chamber of Commerce are asked to consider joining. “It is about local businesses coming together and doing something for the whole community. It’s not about what the chamber can do for you, it’s about what you can do for the Chamber. Together, we are stronger,’” said David.
You can contact the group through ShaftesburyChamber.co.uk or call in and see David at Shaftesbury Wines.