Marple Stationers in Marple, and Mooch Gifts & Home in Stourport on Severn and Bewdley, were commended in the finals of the 25 Best Small Shops in the UK, at an event held at the House of Commons yesterday (November 5).
MPs galore were invited to the event, organised by the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC), which lobbies on retailing issues on behalf of its 100,000 independent retail members. “It was the first time we had entered, so it was very exciting to be shortlisted,” Marple Stationers’ owner Sarah Laker told PGBuzz. “I felt very humble to be among such incredible independents. It’s amazing what some retailers do. For me, it was lovely to be flying the flag for stationery and what we have to offer as a shop.”
As the competition was partly voted for by consumers, and also judged by a panel, Sarah confided that it was her daughters who persuaded her to post on social media. “I’m really glad I did because the response was unbelievable,” she enthused. “People came into the shop to tell me that they had seen the post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and that they had got their friends and family to vote for us. Customers were constantly telling us, ‘we voted for you!’”
Jon May, co-owner of Mooch concurred that being in the final was “great PR.” He told PGBuzz: “customers have been coming into our shops to say ‘you really deserve this’. To be in the top 25 Best Small Shops final is a great achievement for us.”
As the GCA is working with the IRC, Amanda Fergusson, ceo of the Greeting Card Association (GCA) who attended the event made sure that she banged the drum for greeting cards.
“Our relationship with the IRC provides an influential link to government and enables us to support our retail members and indirectly our publisher members,” said Amanda. “The fact that 94% of all greeting cards are still sold in bricks and mortar stores is something which really sets us apart from so many other consumer products,” added Amanda.
As IRC chairman Mark Walmsley stressed “Independents are the lifeblood of UK high streets. They offer tradition, choice and innovation through the diversity of niche products and services, and have been, and still are, an integral part of local communities around the UK.”
The outright winner of the 25 Best Small Shops in the UK competition was deli Papadeli in Bristol. Runners up were The Recycled Candle Company and Bookish in Crickhowell. Highly commended were children’s shop Small Stuff in Sheffield and Cavanagh & Baker, The Island Made Emporium at Shanklin.
In her speech at the event, Meryl Halls, managing director of The Booksellers Association and current vice chair of the IRC said: “It’s great to be able to celebrate the lifeblood of our high streets, our independent retailers, especially at this time of uncertainty and discord. ” She added that the role of an independent retailer can “seem like a thankless task but they are nothing if not survivors. Small shop owners employ local people and contribute to local communities and we are so pleased to have been able to showcase the best of independent retailing and give a vision of how engaging and exciting our high streets can be.”
Top: Papadeli owner Simon MacDonnell (centre) celebrating being named Britain’s Best Small Shop of 2019 with colleagues Amy Partridge (left) and Tia Sturgess.