Independent Shop of the Year 2014: Meet the finalists
Startups unveils the shortlist of independents capitalising on the decline of high street mainstays
You don’t have to be a genius to work out that the traditional UK high street is in trouble, and has been for some time now.
The rise of e-commerce has seen large retailers across the country struggle to cope, with former British institutions like Woolworth’s and HMV meeting their demise in the face of relentless change.
However, a happy consequence of this is that space has suddenly opened up again for excellent independent shops – ventures that successfully take on the hegemony of online (and often utilise it) with unique and unusual products, presentation and a relentless focus on quality. This award recognises the very best of these young businesses.
Having a passion for Belgian chocolate is one thing, but channelling this passion into an independent shop and cafe is quite another – especially when you’re opening next to foodie mainstay John Lewis. Darren Litton’s gamble has, happily, paid off handsomely, with his flagship Bluewater shopping centre store soon followed by a successful placing in Selfridges and healthy sales through Cocoba’s online outlet.
Who doesn’t love a good sofa? That was the thinking of husband-and-wife team Andrew and Ruth Jones when they launched their first showroom in 2011, trading in a wide selection of British-made, hand-crafted, affordable sofas and armchairs. Now operating from a much larger premises, the business has amassed trade and retail customers across the UK and Europe, the USA, Tokyo, New Zealand and more – not bad for an organically-funded venture.
A huge number of consumers in the UK now own smartphones, and Apple’s iPhone has the biggest market share of all. Liam James and Matthew Green’s Plymouth-based shop capitalises on this widespread adoption with a simple but effective business model – buying old iPhones in bulk, refurbishing them, and selling them on for a profit. Profitable from week three, the Plymouth-based shop generated revenues of £2.4m last year.
Having founded one of Britain’s best-loved independent store chains, Laura Tenison MBE is as well-placed as any to judge this year’s promising entrants. Other category judges include big names such as Made Simple Group founder Howard Graham and Duncan Cheatle, leading entrepreneur and founder of The Supper Club.