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Ensemble of indies makes a big noise

As an indie retailer and ratepayer, you are effectively your local council’s customer, but you need to put your head above the parapet to make sure it works for you. If you can do this as a collective, the message is even louder.

As an indie retailer and ratepayer, you are effectively your local council’s customer, but you need to put your head above the parapet to make sure it works for you. If you can do this as a collective, the message is even louder.

In Rochdale last year, a collective of indies and the local press devised a ‘Shop Local’ campaign to showcase the quality and variety of indies that give the town its enduring character. The campaign drew praise from then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and we now have a Love Rochdale loyalty card which encourages shoppers to spend with more than 60 local retailers, mainly indies.

It’s a popular initiative - shoppers believe their local council is responsible for improving their high street - yet how many councils appreciate the role indies play?

I’ve been a strong critic of our own council in the past, but with persistence and pressure things have changed. We now have a listening council with both a leader and deputy leader who meet with indies and understand their problems.

Rochdale council isn’t alone. In Swansea, for example, the council organises an Independents Day on July 4 each year to promote its indies - and in the town centre doubles footfall for the day. Camden council works with local graduates to launch pop-up shops for artists and fashion designers to showcase their work. Rotherham council launched a grants scheme to contribute to retailers’ rents and shopfitting costs in a bid to attract new indies to its town centre. The scheme is now heralded as best practice by the British Retailing Consortium.

The message to indies is to think hard about what help they need from their councils and tackle them head on. Sitting back and just talking about the state of the economy does nothing - you need to stand up and be counted.

Paul Turner-Mitchell is co-owner of contemporary womenswear indie 25 Ten in Rochdale

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