This post started life as a feature about Christmas present ideas. I thought that if I went to a nice, local, independent shop, I’d get better photographs of more interesting products. So I contacted Hannah, the owner of Central Home, a contemporary design shop in Henley on Thames. It’s the kind of place where I always, always find something that I want to buy, and happily she was up for me spending an hour or two rearranging the stock for my pictures!
However, after spending the morning chatting to Hannah about life as an independent trader, I decided it would be much more interesting to write about that instead…..
Hannah opened her lovely shop two and a half years ago, after moving out of London with her husband, Steve, and two boys, Charlie and Josh. For a while she balanced family life with a fairly hectic commute to her old job, but had always had dreams of starting her own shop.
The vision was to offer the kind of shopping experience that you might expect in London, to her new neighbours in South Oxfordshire. She loves contemporary design, and had contacts in the business. Eventually, the right site came up and the rest is history.
The shop is full of cool design pieces, from chic Italian lighting and furniture (the Masters chair by Philippe Starck at the top of the page is a best seller) to beautiful gifts handmade in the UK. Hannah says that what she loves most about the job is “being in a town community. I meet people who will often sit in the shop for hours and tell me their life stories”.
Central Home has a loyal band of regular customers who come back again and again, with some promising to buy every one of their Christmas presents from indie traders this year. But Hannah admits life on the high street in 2017 has its “ups and downs”. She says that Brexit has had a “huge impact” on retailers, with European suppliers putting their prices up overnight, and British shoppers becoming more cautious about how they spend their money. Sales and discounts at Central Home are now more commonplace. It seems we are only willing to buy when we feel we are getting a deal.
Hannah says that most of the empty retail units in centre of town are now only being considered for coffee and charity shops, or nail bars. We all love wandering around quirky and interesting shops, and picking up something “a bit different”, so why don’t we put our money where our mouth is more often? Convenience, and cost I suppose.
Of course I am familiar with the #shopindie hashtags campaigns, but putting a human face to it has been quite powerful for me. By shopping with an independent retailer, you could be supporting someone’s freedom to work flexibly and be their own boss. To fulfill their dreams and ambitions, or simply to get home at a reasonable time every evening.
I don’t want to get on my high horse too early in my blogging life, and I am definitely no shining example of how to always support your local high street (Amazon Prime on speed dial). However, we have a chance over the next few weeks to make some choices about where we spend our money don’t we? I think that one or two indie gifts would be a good way to spread the Christmas cheer.
Tell me what you think. What would persuade you to spend more money locally, or online, with independent retailers? Or perhaps you are one? Tell us how it’s working for you. We can chat in the comments section below.
If you are interested, I’ve written a bit more about myself and Not About the Kids. Thank you so much for stopping by.
Central Home can be found at 3 Reading Road, Henley on Thames, RG9 1AB.