Last week we attended the BIRA High Street conference – a gathering of the UK’s independent retailers keen to improve and adapt their businesses to thrive in a tricky economic environment.

The Expo had a circus theme – which made the whole thing even more interesting (we won a bottle of wine in a lucky dip and some chocolate in a ball-in-a-cup game – which apparently i’m surprisingly good at) and there were numerous talks throughout the day by the retail industry’s finest.

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 17.47.20The tall, dark haired and rather good looking one from The Real Hustle (remember that programme?) was there too! Demonstrating various card tricks and scams used by con artists to swindle us out of money. I can confirm he is still quite attractive.

The highlights for me were discussions with Michael McMillan – formerly of John Lewis where he worked as a customer service specialist. We all know customer service doesn’t get much better than at John Lewis and his talk was engaging, interesting and totally inspiring. He explained how the secret to great service is to allow your staff to become the brand – creating distinct personalities within the business. McMillan also discussed the importance of supporting the team that works for you to ensure happy, engaged and motivated staff. Pretty straightforward stuff really, but so often customer service is forgotten about amongst the hustle of running a business!

Mary Portas – the real life Queen of Shops also gave a talk on how retailers need to adapt to shoppers in an economy where faceless, online shopping Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 17.47.04is becoming more popular. She focused on how important independent retailers are to the heart of the community and how so many locals rely on their high street shopping trips to provide comfort and companionship.

Mum and I are incredibly lucky to have a place on the high street in Grace & Ted and even luckier to be able to have it in Bath! Our customers are unique and we love hearing about why they’re visiting us, what they’re up to and where they’re going. We are in a fortunate position to be able to give our customers the time and attention that a lot of chain stores cannot.

Independents are integral to not only Bath but to the whole of the UK. When you shop with an indie, you’re not only buying a product, you’re investing in them and the business they have worked hard to create.
Bath has the best independent high street I have seen (slightly biased I know, but totally true) and I have become great friends with so many of the hardworking, friendly and inspiring business owners that grace our cobbled streets and pretty squares. We really appreciate you and will always do our best for you.
All we ask is that you keep visiting 🙂

Emma x

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