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A tailored tour of indie stores

One of the biggest challenges for online independents is getting their business noticed in what is a highly competitive market.

Fox&Squirrel, which offers guided tours around London, has launched an online concept that it believes will give indies that necessary exposure.

The Personal Online Fashion Walk is a customised service that offers users recommendations of clothing stores to visit around the UK, but mostly in London at present. Users complete a short survey indicating what they are looking for, as well as their location and lifestyle interests, and Fox&Squirrel then replies with an email outlining shops that may be of interest. Prices range from £50 for a single ‘walk’ to £180 for one every two months over a year.

The email is chatty and informal and refers back to many of the questions in the survey, making it feel a truly personalised experience. It also mentions particular items and why the user would want to visit the store or buy the product. In some cases a link to the indie’s transactional website is given. The email also gives style advice and suggestions, introducing users to brands and stores. 

Rhonda Drakeford, director and founder of accessories indie Darkroom in London’s Lamb’s Conduit Street, says the service has helped with brand awareness: “When Fox&Squirrel approached us to be part of its online walk, we thought it was a brilliant idea. The online world is so dependent on links and recommends, it’s not like you get passing trade as you do in a store.”

Fox&Squirrel was originally launched as an alternative London tour operator, taking groups to a number of indie stores in the capital. The online version was launched in September 2010 and, although the foot tours mean Fox&Squirrel has a strong database already, the online version will increase this dramatically as it allows it to reach beyond the London area.

For indies, this concept provides an avenue for potential customers to find their store and their website. Many indies that are part of the Online Fashion Walk give exclusive customer discounts and offers to help drive sales. 

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