Wandering around my home town, the once thriving market town is now a sorry scene. Sadly, reduced to charity shops, takeaways, banks, estate agents and the once popular shops of my favourite teenage brands are now empty. The tumbleweed may as well blow through the town until the pubs (10 on a half a mile stretch at the last count) open up for a busy night. Sadly about 90% of these pubs are theme or chain and a good night out is a mixed affair. The market place, despite it's million pound facelift, is bereft of anything of any interest or use.
I'm sure I am not alone in feeling a bit jaded about this, and many town centres will be the same -How many of us long for the days of the independent boutique, greengrocer and baker? Maybe it's our fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle where we don't have the time to traipse from one shop to another and would rather have one stop solution to our needs.
Where did my local boutique go - y'know the ones who sold clothes and not just a label, the ones who understood body shape, trends and how to wear them? I didn't see any upon my last trip home.
Why? Greedy landlords are partially to blame for the demise of the high street boutique. A tiny shop with a ridiculous rent and ground fees on top, but we also need to shoulder some of the blame. How many of us are guilty of ordering clothing online only to discover it doesn't suit/fit, and we miss the free return deadline so we Ebay? I'm guilty too. That part of my brain cries why can I not try it on? Where are my local shops? They are a drive out of town to a retail park or city centre.
However, the fight that these little stores have to put up is more significant than anyone would ever know, not only are they having to plug themselves relentlessly locally but also by all the social mediums and least of all - word of mouth! The epitome of a boutique owner is someone whom you can learn to trust, someone who has the personal touch and not just a bored shop assistant quoting text book stuff with no knowledge about how to follow up your request.
I'm not saying the High Street fashion retailers are useless, but I know when I shop I prefer a small, local shop, a familiarity, someone who recognises me and who has the knowledge to recommend or advise on what would suit. I have 35 inch legs (not the easiest to shop for), and so far the best service comes from people who know brands and clothes inside out. One boutique has helped me find my favourite jeans 'What Sarah did...' is an independent boutique and the owner, Sarah Clare, knew instantly what length and size waist would suit me. She wasn't wrong. This just proves my build-up of trust theory - People who know what they are talking about view you in a way that you can't see until they have shown you. They can help you out with the most insignificant detail that could dramatically change your look.
The small retailers know their stuff; this isn't just their livelihood it is also their passion. A lot of skill, time and expertise have gone into these boutiques, from the very products they stock to the knowledge they have - people who know style inside out.
Local Independent retailers aren't just a dying breed. They're also a dying art form.