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known for its variety of independents on the high street, and Robert Welch is proud to be part of a vibrant area close to the artisan Walcot Street. You really receive a personal service when you shop in independents. “Whenever we can, we work with partners in the independent community,” adds Rosalind, who is looking forward to the Bath shop’s fifth anniversary this October. “We also try to support Visit Bath initiatives like The Great Bath Feast and Bath in Fashion.”

Photo by Jesper Mattias

“So much more than just a transaction”

“Although we are an international business…”

We thought it would be interesting to pose the question of indie shopping to brands with a handful of UK shops or even an international presence, such as homeware store OKA, which has 14 sites, and kitchen and dining retailer Robert Welch Designs, which has two studio shops along with a presence in over 200 independent cook shops and department stores. “As a small city, the quality and diversity of independent businesses is outstanding, and we all try to support and encourage each other,” says Alison Sutton, the store manager at OKA Bath on Milsom Street. “Indies are as important as larger businesses to the Bath BID and they are very supportive in terms of creating events. There is a Twitter group called @bathindiechat which does an excellent job of gaining exposure for independent retailers, getting us talking and recommending each other, and the Bath Business Women’s Association [BBWA], of which I am a member, is a fantastic opportunity for local women in business to get together and network with each other. “Having interesting independents is a real draw for tourists who love to come to Bath to shop in more well-known stores,” adds Alison, who will be celebrating OKA’s 18th birthday this year. “But also to explore Bath’s small treasures, which add variety to the high street that in a lot of cases is a unique offering unavailable elsewhere. If you value diversity, then supporting local retailers is essential. Without you they won’t be here.” Rosalind Butt, the manager of the Robert Welch Designs studio shop on Broad Street, adds, “Although we are an international business, we provide a very personal approach in store. Bath is 44 I BATH LIFE I

Above: find specialist magazines, zines and quirky art books at Magalleria; below: hunt for classic, contemporary, couture and vintage jewellery pieces at Alexandra May; opposite page, top: the artwork at Gallery & Barrow is mainly by Bath artists; below: Rossiters’ range is aimed wholly at the local market, never for the masses

This motto was given to us by Michelle Aitken, a joint partner of homeware shop Verve on London Road, who adds that it’s not just about having customers coming in, buying something, then leaving, but creating a whole experience for the consumers that they may not receive in much larger stores. “That’s a huge advantage of shopping at an independent,” she says. “You will usually get a warm welcome, along with evidence of a real passion for whatever the shop owner does or sells. It’s about a personal touch, reflected in a willingness to share and to help – in other words, great customer service that isn’t all about selling.” And Alexandra May, the founder and owner of her eponymous jewellery shop on Brock Street, which has been running for 20 years and has just been completely refurbished, says she has one piece of advice for shoppers who want to support the indies. “Think outside the box!” she says. “Shopping shouldn’t simply be about instant gratification. You can support small traders, have great conversations and come away with an exclusive item.”

“We help each other”

People don’t always want to look the same,

have the same, or see the


This comment comes from Calvin O’Keefe, the store manager at Johns Bikes – which has been running since 1976 – on Walcot Street, who says the community spirit between independent business owners is unmistakable.

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Bath Life 342  

Bath Life 342