It’s our second year of owning an independent pre-owned designer clothing boutique in the beautiful city of Bath. Whilst we were aware of Independent Retailer Month last year, it seemed to pass us by without much of a hoo-ha. The odd poster went up and a few shops offered a discount but nobody really knew what it was for.
What matters to Independent Retail Owners?
I regularly chat to other indie business owners and we all agree on the same things:
- Success depends on footfall
- There’s strength in numbers
- Most businesses would love to follow an indie campaign but no one wants to lead.
Increasing awareness of independent retailers using twitter!
This year I wanted to increase awareness of Independent Retailer month in Bath. Inspired by www.independentretail.co.uk I decided (at the very last minute – 2nd July in fact) to organise a small treasure hunt around the city that would run on Twitter. I wanted to see how many businesses would support the idea and how many of Bath’s shoppers would engage with it. I chatted to a friend and owner of Bath’s finest emporium of alcohol ‘Independent Spirit of Bath’, Chris Scullion, about the idea and as a fellow advocate of indie businesses, he was keen to help.
How to spot an independent retailer? Look for a bright orange balloon!
I purchased 100 orange balloons with the intention of tying one to every independent business in the centre of Bath. Little did I know, there is an international shortage of helium and as I was funding the balloons myself, was unable to buy enough to fill all one hundred. Stuart at Bisque radiators (a fellow indie and our neighbour in Kingsmead Square) kindly donated a canister of helium that they had left over from an event and we managed to blow up 25 balloons.
Bath Treasure Hunt – Twitter #BTH – Friday and Saturday 4th & 5th July…
During Friday 4th myself and Chris trekked up, down, and around Bath delivering balloons to indies dotted all over the city centre. We drew a heart on one side of the balloon and put our twitter hashtag #BTH (Bath Treasure Hunt) on the other –hoping to encourage intrigue amongst locals as to what it was all about.
Social media has been a huge help to us and Twitter in particular seems to benefit a lot of businesses in Bath. The personal feel and sense of community it creates is unrivalled by any other form of social media and is something that cannot be gained through other forms of advertising, such as in magazines.
Over the course of Friday we tweeted relentlessly (much to the annoyance of many, I’m sure) that wherever they saw an orange balloon they would find a plethora of indie businesses and that they should drop in and say hello.
Making it not just shopping – it was a fun competition for people to take part!
On Saturday 5th from 10am Chris (@indiespiritbath) and I (@graceandted) tweeted a clue relating to one of 11 indie businesses every half an hour. The first person to guess the clue, run to the business and shout “I love Bath’s indies” won the prize. Treasure up for grabs included gift vouchers, jewellery, food hampers and tickets to events.
We tried to choose businesses that were spaced out around the city so that hunters were encouraged to walk to areas they might not normally visit. So many of our indie shops are off the beaten track in Bath, down beautiful cobbled streets or nestled in the corner of incredible Georgian squares and they regularly get forgotten.
A winner in just 15 minutes – clearly twitter was working to engage local shoppers!
We were unsure of the response we would get when we started the hunt but were so happy when within 15 minutes of the first clue being tweeted we were contacted by the business owner to say they had a winner! We asked each shop owner to tweet a photo of their winning customer with the prize and Chris and I continued to tweet clues with mounting interest from spectators. All 11 prizes were won by the time the final clue was tweeted at 3pm and the business owners were so pleased.
Acknowledgement from the Business Improvement District
Our local Business Improvement District were really impressed with the engagement from the community and I have since had a meeting with the CEO of the Bath BID to discuss the future of indie business events in the city. Since the hunt, Chris and I have been approached by more local business owners that are keen to take part in the next activity and we now have a list of over 30 retailers that want to get involved in the future.
The hunt was a great success for all involved but more importantly, it showed what is possible when we all work as a team. I fully understand the commitments of most business owners mean they are unable to take the time to scout around looking for helium or to hand out balloons; but any idea, no matter how small, can have a long-lasting positive effect. It took barely any time at all to organise the treasure hunt and the best thing was that the businesses taking part didn’t have to do anything except wait for their winner to arrive.
It was great to meet fellow indie business owners and their enthusiasm for the cause is infectious. It is so true that there is strength in numbers and I think it’s important that the businesses in a city appear united.
This is just the beginning for Bath’s indies – we hope that as a result of the success of future events, independent retail will thrive in Bath all year round and not just throughout July.
Images from the Bath Treasure Hunt…