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23 Courtyard

6 Angel Gate, Guildford

Who you need to know

Owner Julia Jaconelli (left)

Brands include Black Orchid, Christopher Fischer Cashmere, Citizens of Humanity, Hallebob, J Brand, Laark, Milly, Prps, T Los Angeles, Tibi, True Religion

This contemporary womenswear indie was praised by Inspiring Indies voters for its fantastic product offer and unrivalled customer service. “Courtyard appears to have it all”, said one nominator, while another fan enthused: “The shop is a lovely experience, the staff are helpful but not pushy and the selection of clothing and accessories is always a perfect mix of fashion and elegance.”

Owner Julia Jaconelli opened her first Courtyard store in a cobbled courtyard - hence the name - off the main high street in Guildford 16 years ago. The shop offers a huge choice of brands, covering all sectors from denim and casualwear to occasionwear and accessories. New designers are added each season, with Brodie & Charlie and Irwin & Jordan hitting the shopfloor for spring 11 along with footwear label Kat Maconie.

A second Courtyard shop opened in the small market town of Petworth in Sussex in 2005. Jaconelli says the greatest challenge has been adapting the brand mix to suit the different customer profiles of the two stores. “I still buy the same brands for both stores - I just pick different pieces. The Sussex store has a slightly more traditional customer so a more subtle, understated look works better there than pieces with logos and sequins,” she says.

Judging from customers’ reactions, it seems to be working. One voter says: “Petworth is a small country village and we are so lucky to have a reliably brilliant shop. The staff are so helpful and give great advice. On many occasions they have encouraged me to try something I didn’t think would suit me, and it has always become an essential part of my wardrobe.”

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