How many times have you seen that IKEA black and white Stockholm rug on Pinterest and splashed across the pages of magazines? Yes sure, it's lovely, but then again everyone has a copy of the exact same thing. Isn't this annoying?
There's a solution to this. Buy from independent, smaller shops. They either produce or source from a number of cool brands, both in the UK or abroad so you get access to products that are on trend but not mass produced and that are not that easy to find on the high street.
So while you spend your hard earned cash this season, try to balance your purchases between the big names that - I get it, we all love - and the little guys who have so much to give (especially when it comes to service!). Here are my reasons for shopping small.
Small businesses contribute to the local economy
Small businesses are the backbone of the high street. They play a huge role in our communities all over the country, contributing billions of pounds to the economy. It is now, more than ever, crucial that we keep our high streets alive and booming. Lively high streets bring people together. On the contrary, ran down high streets give the impression that the economy (local and national) is problematic. That can also drive the price of homes nearby down and ultimately crash the property market.
Shop owners usually pay rent to a landlord and give work to employees who often live locally. And when they are online, they still use local suppliers, especially where they produce or stock items for resale.
The Customer comes first, always
It is well known that small business owners very often go above and beyond to serve their customers. You will have great service and often with a personal touch. Nothing like going into a shop and the owner remembering your name!
Unusual gifs & Objects of desire
Some small shops specialise in objects of desire, art and products that you will not find ANYWHERE else on the high street. We are talking about original, hand-crafted products that will bring back memories or help you capture a perfect moment for years to come.
“Supporting local businesses is crucial if we want to keep our High Streets alive and buzzing with independent, exciting and creative shops. Don’t just talk about it - do something about it - shop local and make a real difference.”
— PATRICIA VAN DEN AKKER, THE DESIGN TRUST
If it's out of stock they can often re-order it for you
Love something but it is now out of stock? Ask nicely and the store can probably order it back with their next order from that specific supplier.
They can customise products to your specifications
Not exactly the colour you need that chair in? Small businesses can help you customise products directly. And if you can't find the product you need they can also suggest alternatives based on their product catalogues (many products don't make it to the front end after all.
Small businesses lead by innovation
Often starting with one person's idea to fill in a gap in the market, they address local needs. Owners have to show flexibility to the ever changing environment around them and this helps them become inventive and innovative.
They make us social
According to a research commissioned by American Express in 2014, local high streets with a higher proportion of independent, small shops were also found to increase social interactions between shoppers, with people who reside in these areas more likely to say ‘hello’ to people on their high street than those in comparable areas with fewer independents (163 times a year vs. 96).
Similarly, shoppers on independent high streets are twice as likely to have a conversation with someone they do not know (56 conversations annually compared to just 28). I have personally realised that whenever I visit such small businesses, I end up having proper conversations with the store owners and then the deal is sealed - I buy stuff and I return for more.
The personal touch
Residents from areas with a higher proportion of small, independent businesses consider local shopkeepers their friends and a quarter know them by their first name. But even if the small shop-owner does not have a brick and mortar shop down your high street, you still enjoy the personal touch.
Let's face it. They sell products that are unique
Why not give it a try and start supporting these independent shops through the JUST A CARD campaign? This campaign aims to encourage people to support, value and buy from artists, designers, independent shops and small businesses by reinforcing the message that all purchases, however small, even 'just a card' are so vital to their prosperity and survival.
The campaign came about when Artist & Designer Sarah Hamilton saw the quote "If everyone who'd complimented our beautiful gallery had bought 'just a card' we'd still be open" by store keepers who'd recently closed their gallery. This prompted a call to action!
Designer/Makers, independent shops, galleries and small businesses need a voice. People seldom realise the considerable costs involved in exhibiting at design shows or keeping a shop open. Stand fees, power, materials, wages etc need to be met before even a penny of profit can be realised. Running a shop is often a labour of love. Without dedication and passion, and crucially sales, it would be another boarded up eyesore.
Scroll down for some of our favourite Indie Shops around the UK and links to artists that are part of the Just A Card Campaign.
1. LOVE FRANKIE - Devon
34 High Street, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 5RY
This is the home of made to order lampshades, creative lighting & interiors. Lover of colour, the dark side and all things kitsch, Love Frankie are on a mission to inject a big ‘ol slice of fun back into the interiors world. With their signature collection of made to order statement lampshades, kooky lamps and unique homewares, Love Frankie are passionate about showing you how easy it is to add a playful, eclectic touch to your homes.
2. TINDESIGN - Leigh on Sea
3 Ashleigh Drive, Leigh on Sea, SS9 1AD
Offering an eclectic mix of homeware, lighting, cool wallpaper, wall art, eccentric furniture and local artisan pieces. Tin Design is based in Leigh on Sea, they share a passion for Interior Design and all things different to the high street. They have products created by local artists, including photography by Darren Skerrit and art prints by Antony 'H' Haylock. Local artist Daisy Bond is also stocked, and her A4 prints are only £10.
3. HOMEBARN - Marlow
Tithe Barn, Wilton Farm, Marlow Rd, Little Marlow, Marlow, Buckinghamshire, SL7 3RR
A destination interiors shop, Homebarn is run by sisters in law, Sarah and Sally from their huge barn in Marlow, stocked full of vintage furniture, ceramics and reclaimed dining tables (these are usually around £1,400 but can go up to £3,500 depending on size and material). The store also offers an exceptional variety of ceramics for every day and decorative use as well as textiles.
4. AIR & GRACE - London
60 Bermondsey Street, London
Created by women, for women, Air & Grace make ‘astonishingly comfortable’* shoes that quite simply look amazing. Claire often found herself the only woman in the room at range meetings fighting the case for shoes women actually wanted to wear... Frustrated with the footwear industry notion that comfort and style could not co-exist, she took the leap to go it alone and create Air & Grace - shoes as covetable as they are comfortable. ( *India Knight, The Sunday Times).
Subscribe to their newsletter for an instant 10% off your first order and exclusive warning of their annual sales.
Online - click here
Originally called MiaFleur, and launched in 2012 by Jacqui, Hollie and Amelia Brooks. Audenza is an award winning online homeware boutique; created to add edge, style and interest to the homes of interesting people and selling a fabulously quirky selection of homewares which ooze character and scream fearless style.
6. My Billet Doux - Yorkshire
My Billet Doux™ is a small luxurious silk cushion designed with vintage and antique ribbons based on the idea of hiding (or leaving) a note for a loved one. A discreet zip pocket at the back contains a notebook and a pen for you to leave messages, love notes or drawings, for when you’re apart – or when you’re together! As well as running My Billet Doux, Natalia has L'Atelier which is also packed with beautiful products!
7. JAY & Co
Online - click here
Jay Blades, co-founder of award winning former social enterprise Out of the Dark, is a highly skilled community leader who has turned his focus to Jay & Co, a social enterprise that helps reach disadvantaged and disengaged groups in the community, fire them up and re-engage them through exciting activities. His areas of expertise are dying British crafts, business and life skills.
8. The Future Kept - Fairlight
Jeska & Dean Hearne, husband & wife, are adventure seekers, photographers, the owners of two mischievous cats, and creators of The Future Kept. Since 2014 The Future Kept has been part of a new adventure on their journey through life together.
9. Home by Kirstie - Cardiff
64A Glenroy St, CF24 3JY Cardiff
Based in Cardiff, this is a brick and mortars as well as online shop. Born from a love of design and a belief that homes should inspire, Home byKirsty is a collection of beautiful, modern products lovingly curated by lighting and homeware designer-maker Kirsty Patrick. Discover statement Mid Century Scandi lighting, pure lambswool Melin Tregwynt Welsh Blankets + cushions, and Terazzo Jesmonite coasters and House Doctor concrete plant pots and glass vases for your home. Decorate your monochrome nurseries with Wee Gallery Growth Charts and Organic Soft Rattles for the little ones. Stand out with statement wood, mother of pearl and brass Wolf & Moon Earrings.
10. Luxe 39 - London
London - online
Products we love: The 30x50 bright pink velvet cushion with turquoise zip (£55) | The emerald Green Velvet Cushion with Duck Egg 45x45 (£65)
11. The Small Home
As their name suggests, they don’t believe that size matters. The Small Home edit of carefully chosen artisan products, both useful and beautiful, offers an antidote to the modern-day mind-set of disposability. The store's aesthetic is pared-back and understated. By taking inspiration from the Japanese Wabi Sabi concept – seeing the beauty in imperfections – The Small Home hails the handmade, the natural and the unique.
Products we love: their beaded moccasin slipper boots (£80) should be on everyone's wish list this Christmas.
12. Seven Seventeen - Sussex
Located on the Sussex coast, friends and former magazine journalists Naomie and Sarah have a passion for beautifully scented candles which led them to launch their own sumptuous range in November 2016. Their lushly-fragranced, plant-based collection is both luxurious and affordable.
Featured in The Guardian, Independent and Glamour magazine, SevenSeventeen candles are hand-poured in England with natural wax that burns cleanly and throws the scent. Each candle has an incredible burn time (up to 70-hours for a triple wick candle!). Try their All the Love luxury gift set (£36), it includes a candle, black steel wick trimmers and extra long matches, all in a gift box (as pictured).
13. iyouall - London
Kings Cross - Coal Drops Yard, 113 Lower Stable Street, London N1C 4DR
iyouall is the design brand and retail concept from London based practice iya studio. The stores (3 in total around London) offer a curated range of lifestyle products for those with an eye for design. Stationery from Japanese brands such as Hightide and Midori and homeware from Scandinavian brands Hay and Normann Copenhagen sit alongside ceramics and candles from local London producers such as Sunday of London. Cards, prints and notebooks from the studio's own creative team completes the offering.
14. MINIMA - Birmingham
58 George Street, Birmingham, B3 1QA
Timeless mid-century modern furniture and the latest, most innovative products brought to you by Birmingham’s most promising design talent. Minima also has an online store. Subscribe for 10% off your first order.
15. Mink Interiors - Tunbridge Wells
Mink Interiors, 15 The Pantiles, Tunbridge Wells, TN2 5TD
Mink Interiors is an interior design business with studio, online store and shop in Tunbridge Wells, UK. The online store + shop is a curated collection of some of the best modern interiors products from the around the globe from independent designer / makers to leading and established design brands. Visits to the physical store are by appointment only.
Products we love: the store has a great collection of lights, but we have our eyes set on this marble beauty. They also stock some pretty cool striped cushions as pictured.
16. Wyld Home - Shrewbury
64 Wyle Cop, Shrewsbury, Shropshire SY1 1UX
Shop opening hours are 10am to 5.30 pm Monday to Saturday
Green up your gaff at the freshest shop in Shrewsbury! This tiny boutique is like nothing else in town... fab and fun with a touch of boho glam, specialising in faux greenery. Their style was inspired by interior design guru to the stars, Abigail Ahern. Their “look” is rich, dark and beautiful. Whether you want a single stem for a favourite vase or a statement centrepiece for the grand piano, they are your guys.
17. The Restoration - London
Green up, Unit 1 Bouverie Mews, 2 Bouverie Road (opposite Bolt), Stoke Newington, N16 0AJ
Founded by Sophie Jones, The Restoration offers an eclectic mix of homewares products and also a restoration service including upholstery. They sell vintage storage cabinets and chests of drawers too.
18. Mia Wood - Kew Gardens
9, Station Parade, Kew Gardens Village, Richmond, TW9 3PS
Family business in Kew with designer jewellery, handbags, fragrant toiletries, textiles and homewares, Mia fuses traditional pieces with modern ideas. Everything for your home, with a good ceramics collection and cushions.
19. OKLAHOMA - Manchester
74-76 High St, Manchester M4 1ES
The biggest independent gift shop in Manchester, showcasing independent artists and makers. A wonderful website too.
Spread out over 2000 sq ft of floor space and packed to the rafters with vibrant & colourful homeware & kitchenware, handmade jewellery, cards, books & stationery, tin toys, novelty items & curiosities from around the world.
20. TRUCE - Cotswolds
16 Fountain St, Nailsworth, Stroud GL6 0BL
New shopping experience in the Cotswolds town of Nailsworth. Truce offers Him & Her contemporary design with products ranging from interiors, accessories to fashion. Run by Chris Williamson, Truce stocks a range of modern and contemporary products from home interiors, Art prints, jewellery to fashion, technology and accessories. Some of their Brands include - ferm LIVING, HYMN London, Laura Gravestock, Tom Pigeon, Skandinavisk, Revo, Abbott Lyon, Holly Francesca, Wolf and Moon, Honest Skincare with more to follow!
21. Peony & Sage
Online - click here
Vintage and French inspired fabrics. Beautiful linens and tweeds available by the metre. Shabby Chic decor, including cushions, wallpapers and trims.
22. Lifestory - Edinburgh
53 London Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6LX
A store for Scandi inspired stylish and creative homewares, furniture, jewellery, stationery, accessories and lifestyle products available online and on London Street at the bottom of Broughton Street, Edinburgh. Scandinavian design-led with both Nordic and home grown brands.
Open seven days, the LIFESTORY has been featured in Elle Decoration.
23. Pad Lifestyle - Edinburgh
46 Howe St, Edinburgh EH3 6TH
Pad is a celebration of beautifully unique furniture, homeware, art, fashion and lifestyle brands from all over the world. Shop their curated collections of iconic international brands and the coolest independent designers and makers in store in the heart of Edinburgh and online.
24. LIFT - Southwold (Suffolk)
59 High Street, Southwold, Suffolk. IP18 6DJ
LIFT is going to lift your spirits up! This independent home & lifestyle store is based in Southwold on the Suffolk coast. You will find it ppen 10-4 Mon-Sat & 11-4 on Sundays. Lift was born a few years ago whilst David, its owner, was living and working in London. After a visit to Southwold for a weekend David instantly fell in love and decided it was the place for him to pursue his dream of having his own shop.
Products we love: Acrylic Christmas decorations for a funky tree look, from £2.50 | Striped stockings, £14
25. No59 - Devizes
59 Northgate Street, Devizes
Just opened in 2019 - so if you are around Devizes in the centre of Wiltshire why not pop in and say hello. No59 is as cute as they come with its yellow front to attract all the high street attention. You can find them on Instagram.
Look for: the leather gloves with the bolt on. Electrifying!
26. Lisa Greener - Gloucester
27. Nikki Miles - London
Nikki Miles is a multidisciplinary illustrator based in London. She has experience working with a range of clients across different projects that include advertising, editorial, publishing, packaging, branding, patterns and stationery. Recently her greetings cards designs have been stocked in Paperchase stores in the UK via Whale & Bird publishing.
28. Pedricks Zero Waste - Caterham, Surrey
Opened in late 2019, the store is based in the heart of Caterham and focuses on zero waste products, so bring your bottles and bags in to buy their products.
29. Eva Sonaike
Eva Sonaike is a London-based lifestyle company using African prints and African inspired textiles to create beautiful fabrics and luxurious accessories for home décor, fashion and interior design.
30. HOKOLO - London
Hokolo is a bold and colourful design-led lifestyle and homeware brand founded in 2012 by Jen. Following a career in architecture, she was searching for what she really enjoyed and loved in life; well-designed, carefully crafted, beautiful timeless and functional objects. Retro themed and colourful, her products really stand out!
31. OF CABBAGES & KINGS - North London
127 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 0PH, London
Of Cabbages & Kings is not only a shop and gallery, but also a creative space in North East London. Working with aspiring homegrown talent alongside established UK artists and designers, the shop stocks a handpicked selection of jewellery, stationery and homewares, while the gallery specialises in limited edition prints. From silkscreen and etching to risograph and giclée, we hold a diverse collection of original and affordable art for your walls.
Do you have a favourite independent shop that you'd like to recommend?
Drop me a message on firstname.lastname@example.org so I can add them here!