In recent times a question mark has been hanging over the future of the high street. Will ecommerce kill the high street? Will retailers close branches as they look to ‘right-size’ their store estates for multichannel trading? It was a question addressed by Mary Portas in her report looking into the future of the high street, and other leading retail figures have also had their say.
Now independent traders in the East Yorkshire town of Beverley have come up with their own answer, by joining together to promote their bricks-and-mortar stores online in a communal website, independentbeverley.co.uk. The site includes a walking trail of the town, which takes in retailers of all shapes and sizes, and while it does not enable online sales, it links to the retailers’ own ecommerce websites.
So far 33 retailers have joined the scheme, which was the idea of Amalia Booker and Antony Barton, who own Beverley gift and furniture shop Amanti (pictured), and was unveiled to mark Independent Retailer Month.
"Even in a town like Beverley that appears to be successful and affluent trading can be hard,” said Booker. “Most of us don’t have big marketing budgets so the obvious thing to do is to come together and start promoting one another in an active way.
"So far, Beverley has been able to avoid becoming just another clone town, but we need to make sure that we keep a diverse range of shops here because it’s good for the town and good for the local economy. When we count the number of independent shops that have closed since we opened six years ago, it’s very worrying.
“We know that many of our customers want to shop local and this website will make it easier for them to find what they’re looking for. At the same time, visitors will be able to make sure that they’re seeing all of Beverley’s shops not just those in the main tourist areas.”
Lisa Barrow, florist and owner of Fleurs de Lisa, said: "There are countless news reports on towns suffering at the hands of retail giants but the Independent Beverley website and trail gives an indication of what can happen when we unite. Too often, small independent businesses are referred to as ‘best kept secrets’. We don't want the shops in Beverley to be a secret. Hopefully the trail will get people shouting about us."
Councillor David Elvidge, chairman of Beverley and Rural community partnership, said: "The independent traders in Beverley are, I believe, the backbone of our local economy. They are at the heart of our thriving community, indeed they are an integral part of our town's unique character, something that attracts visitors from far and wide to shop within our town and visit us again and again.”