Creative spaces: seven ways the new retail world is making life more real

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The Guardian

Ever since humans moved on from barter systems, shopping has been an integral part of life – which means that the transformation of shopping habits in recent years has had far-reaching effects. Digital shopping seemed to be turning the element of human interaction into faceless transactions, making shopping more perfunctory. But a renaissance of independent shops and brands – and consumer support for them – has also sparked a resurgence of other intangible things, such as serendipity and community. Here are some of the ways these shifts have affected our everyday lives:

Creating a sense of place
The resurgence of independent retailers is breathing new life into communities, creating spaces and a sense of place where customers can experience brands from a variety of makers and designers, from food and fashion to art and lifestyle. Shopping online may have the advantage in terms of speed and convenience, but buying from a small, local store, where you can see, smell, touch, and even taste some of the products on offer creates a physical shopping experience that no amount of e-commerce technology can compete with.

More bespoke and quirky products
In a world that’s been dominated by massive chain stores, all designed to look the same, independent retailers bring much-needed originality and variety into shoppers’ lives. These smaller stores can afford to be more selective, whether choosing their suppliers or stocking products from new brands that their customers are unlikely to have seen anywhere else. Through wholesale B2B platforms such as Ankorstore, these retailers can expand their reach to connect with artisan producers, designers and niche brands to generate even greater choice and variety for their customers.

Independent businesses put a face and story behind your transactions, giving you the chance to build a connection. Photograph: Maskot/Getty Images

Personal customer service
One of the hallmarks of the independent retailer is the level of personal customer service they provide. They are incredibly passionate about their products, they love what they do, and want to share that passion with others. They are also extremely knowledgeable about the brands they are selling, and will happily share the story behind the goods and the people who have created them with their customers. People also want to buy from businesses that make it easy to get help when they need it and will go above and beyond for them, something that independent retail business owners excel at.

A sense of community
Long before the existence of shopping malls and online deliveries, shopping locally from small independent retailers, whose owners you got to know personally, was the norm. How many people are on first-name terms with their supermarket manager? Local shops have a huge role to play in what makes a town or city unique, adding character, and a sense of culture and community. Calling in at the local bakery, toy shop, or florist to browse and have a chat with the owner helps to build and strengthen a sense of community and keeps people connected.

Supporting new businesses
The last few years have been tough for high street retail, particularly for some of the largest retail brands. But, as chain stores continue to reduce their presence, a new generation of independent retail businesses is stepping into the gaps they’ve left behind. Buying from these businesses demonstrates support for the designers and independent brands whose goods they are selling, and showing that support for entrepreneurship feeds back into the community, generating further opportunities for creativity and innovation. For many customers, there is also a desire to give something back by helping the small independent retailers who’ve struggled in recent times to keep their businesses open.

By shopping independently, customers can often find products that are one of a kind and more sustainable. Photograph: Milles Studio/Stocksy United

Eco-conscious shopping
Shopping locally from independent retailers can also be better for the environment. At a time when everyone is more aware of climate change, increasing numbers of people are becoming sustainable shoppers, buying products that are eco-friendly and responsibly sourced. Independent retailers that use online B2B marketplaces have access to a much wider range of brands and designers offering these types of products. People are more likely to walk, cycle or use public transport to get to their local high street; a greener alternative to online deliveries made by cars and vans to your door. Similarly, packaging is often more economical and sustainable in local shops than in some of the larger corporates and e-commerce firms.

Improving health and wellbeing
During lockdown periods, the sense of isolation and the lack of social interaction were leading causes of anxiety and other mental health issues. A return to normality and a resurgence of shopper activity in the local independent retail marketplace could have a positive impact on people’s health and wellbeing. We are social creatures, after all. Ultimately, shopping is the transactional element; what matters is that real-life interaction, and the emotional and personal connection that results from direct communication with the owners of the small independent retail businesses.

To find out more or register with Ankorstore, visit ankorstore.com

August 17, 2022 at 03:04PM Alison Coleman

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