It is important that independent stores a recognised and respected.
Wherever you go, High Street shops are the same; a bit like a copycat. There is nothing that exciting about shopping anymore.
However, if you look towards the adjacent streets, you will find the real life of a city. This is where most independent retailers are located, because it is cheaper that but also more affordable.
Business rates are hitting shop owners and being on the foreground is no more possible, simply because corporations have the means to splash the cash.
Nevertheless, being in the background is not always that bad, because tourists and residents want to support smaller businesses too.
In Exeter, something happened: Exeter Trails.
A group of people decided to put a few businesses on some maps according to their activities:
activities and hobbies
bygones and boutiques
food glorious food.
I was in Exeter a few months back and managed to attend the official launch of that rather particular event.
It took place at Exeter Phoenix Arts Centre – there was an speech and a lot of samples from most participants listed on these vintage looking maps which were handed out and are still available from many retailers. They give a certain guidance if you are new in the city (tourists and students) but also if you want to discover the real heart of Exeter and all the little hidden gems.
It becomes a bit like a treasure hunt and you can't miss the window stickers to guarantee that you have reached one of the independent store. It is a big community sense and feel.
Exeter has been buzzing in the past 18 months with a few new developments and events to come attracting visitors from all horizons. There was even the BBCone's Antiques Roadshow around the Cathedral, which brought a few thousand people. Overall, a good day out and great activity in and around the unmissable meeting point and restaurants which is Cathedral Yard. Another good opportunity to discover and visit the outstanding landmark or even to bring back a souvenir even if just a fridge magnet or other keyring.
The sense of community in Exeter is almost palpable. Coffee shops are organising events such as cupping and early March 2014 latte art smackdown at The Darkhorse Espresso. A certainly fun night according to the report by The Cycling Barista.
The essential is to have fun and to get stronger. No one is alone even if the shop front is not on the High Street. Supporting each other is what counts and life/business is more enjoyable too.
The remaining question: Are there other towns/cities who managed to shake things to get that community feel ticking?
NB: If you are visiting Exeter note that you can pick Exeter Trails' maps at any of the participating stores and the library, Tourist Information and RAMM.