As the internet becomes ever bigger with ever greater enticements to shop online from the comfort of our own homes, a small, but growing, backlash against the dominance of these virtual giants has begun. The High Street is finally fighting back. #shoplocal has over 14 million posts on instagram and customers (that’s us) are enjoying the idea of returning to a real shop to touch and feel and, yes, chat before buying.
But it’s a slow process. Many shops in small towns don’t receive more than a few customers each day and not all of them are prepared to part with their money every visit. And who knows how many of them go into the store, have a browse and then go home and buy it online.
Well, now there is a solution. Now you can shop local online and know that you are supporting a small business, preserving a high street ( just not necessarily yours) and helping local communities to thrive. It’s called Trouva and I think it’s a genius idea. Basically, any real bricks and mortar shop can sign up to the site (that is the key point, no front door – no sign up). Trouva then puts their wares online for us to browse and arranges couriers to collect and deliver the goods – for which they take a commission, obviously.
In many cases, I have been told, Trouva is helping keep these shops afloat as they are now earning enough to cover their rents and rates and keep their real life doors open and the high street thriving. It’s one of those – so clever why didn’t I think of that – ideas. It’s harnessing that huge online customer base and pointing it at all those small shops that find it hard to compete with the giants in search rankings.
Lucy Ward, the creative brand director of Trouva, is passionate about her job and her enthusiasm is infectious. I am lucky enough to live in one of the so-called London villages and we have two shops that are signed up to the site. As design shops in a middle class area of North London, they are always seem quite busy, but imagine what it must be like in the smaller towns and quiet streets outside the capital.
“I’ve always loved retail and, especially, independent shops,” says Lucy. “The idea of having no local high streets with them in, or a world full of identical chains (or Amazons) deeply concerns me. The beauty of Trouva is that it takes the technical and logistical burdens away from them [such as fighting for online presence, packing up parcels, closing the shop to go to the post office etc ] and frees them to do what they do best – running their shops and sourcing great products.
“One of my best moments since I started this job was when a shop told me they had covered their rent through income generated through Trouva. We had provided a whole new revenue stream and removed one of the biggest burdens facing independent retailers.”
Every boutique that signs up to Trouva is given access to the same technology so they can benefit from the economies of scale that would be impossible if they were on their own. This also means they can offer services such as click and collect and one hour delivery services – things that are really hard for a small business but which we have come to expect in the 21st century.
“To achieve all this without Trouva, a shopkeeper would need a degree in marketing with 10 years experience, be an expert in SEO, have access to the technology, an operational mindset and logistics experience,” suggests Lucy. Not to mention five pairs of hands and 25 hours in a day. Instead, Trouva has different brains and hands for all that background stuff and takes it on for the retailers.
There are currently more than 400 stores signed up to Trouva and the breadth of product is amazing. One of the things I have enjoyed is discovering how many brands you can find on there that you might already be familiar with. This means it’s rapidly becoming the first place I turn to when I want to buy something because there’s a really good chance I will find it there first and can then boost the whole retail as personal therapy notion by knowing that I’ve supported a small business.
I was keen to write about Trouva because I think it’s a concept that you will all like too and it seemed a great fit for the ethos of this blog as I have tried, since it started, to support small brands and companies.
So I asked them to send over a few things for me to photograph and what I realised, when carrying everything upstairs to the loft, was just how many other things I already had, which may not have come via Trouva but which were well known designers and brands such as Broste Copenhagen, Ferm Living, House Doctor and Fornasetti.
So if you are planning on buying a new vase, or a set of mugs or anything for your house or home – or even your wardrobe – I always forget they do fashion and lifestyle as well – then it’s probably worth having a hunt around the Trouva site first.
Then you know you are shopping and helping at the same time. And what better justification for spending money can there be than that?
And if you don’t even know what you want to buy you can even choose type of boutique you want to shop from – minimalist or maximalist, contemporary or quirky as well as find out more about the actual shop itself. Back in 2013 The Guardian wrote a piece about the advantages of shopping local. I’ve linked to it here as, if you’ve got 10 minutes, it’s all sound thinking.
Right I’m off to buy a birthday present for my mother and see if I can justify supporting the high street by buying one for myself. The old – one for you, one for me routine.
Let me know what you think of Trouva in the comments below. I’d love to learn if you were already familiar with it or if it’s new to you.