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7 Independent Businesses Going Beyond Traditional Retail


In February 2020, online retail sales made up approximately 19% of all retail sales. Only two years later, in March 2022, this jumped to 26% of total sales. 

Even as the world is well into its post-pandemic recovery, brick-and-mortar stores have had to work hard to regain their footing against the increasing popularity of online shopping. 

The rise of the ‘experience economy’, where people are spending more on in-person experiences as opposed to material goods, presents a unique opportunity for these brick-and-mortar retailers. By finding new ways to set your store apart, customers will be eager to put down their phones, and see what you have to offer. Here are seven stores that are going beyond traditional retail:

On this page

  1. Happydashery
  2. Handmade Design
  3. London Review Bookshop
  4. BAM Space + Store
  5. Smooches Pooches
  6. Bear Bookshop
  7. Hand-Spun Botanics


1. Happydashery



💡How they set themselves apart: Happydashery offers gift-wrapping services and greeting card writing services 

This bright and airy gift shop in Leighton Buzzard ensures to take care of their shoppers by making their experience as welcoming and personal as possible. This includes wrapping gift purchases and hand-writing personalized messages in a greeting card of your choice. Happydashery ensures to stock their shelves with a colorful assortment of products —- the ‘little bits of happy’ for any shopper.


2. Handmade Design

handmade design

💡How they set themselves apart: All of Handmade Design’s products are handmade by one of more than 70 of their independent creators they source from. Handmade Design also runs in store workshops.

Each one of Handmade Design’s products, whether it’s cards, ceramics, jewellery and more, is carefully handmade by one of 70 independent crafters across the UK. They particularly value sourcing their products locally, and mark items made in Derbyshire with a sticker. Their continually growing collection of artisan gifts are designed with the intention of crafting products just as unique as the buyer.


3. London Review Bookshop

london review


💡How they set themselves apart: The London Review Bookshop includes a tea and cake shop so you can pair one of their endless pieces of literature with something sweet. They also hold discussions with local authors and film screenings.

As one of the most unique independent book stores in London, the London Review Bookshop, just a stone’s throw from the British Museum, boasts a tea and cake shop, and offers around 20,000 pieces of literature. The bookshop also hosts weekly presentations by local authors and the occasional film screenings. Podcasts are also available on the website for those who are unable to make it out.


4. BAM Space + Store



💡How they set themselves apart: BAM Store + Space hosts craft workshops at their shop led by local crafters.

This non-profit indie store holds frequent craft workshops by some of the local crafters, from flower headdress workshops to ‘Grown Up Craft Club’. BAM Store + Space also sources its products from a number of independent UK creators for a touch of eccentricity and individuality in the heart of Easton, Bristol.


5. Smooches Pooches



💡How they set themselves apart: Smooches Pooches goes the extra mile by offering fitting services for pets in their wide range of collars and pet clothing

From quirky clothing and accessories, to collars with a pop of colour and a fun pattern, Smooches Pooches offers a fitting service for pets to ensure whatever they’re wearing is just right for them! Pets are sure to be spoiled with one of this independent pet boutique’s wide range of unique products.


6. Bear Bookshop



💡 How they set themselves apart: Bear Bookshop hosts readings for children of all ages, and offers different types of community events for families.

This is more than your average child’s bookstore. Bear Bookshop brings fun and creativity into its store by holding weekly readings for children of all ages that are sure to inspire their imagination. They also organise a variety of free community events for families.


7. Hand-Spun Botanics



💡 How they set themselves apart: Hand-Spun Botanics offers workshops to teach an array of botany skills, guided by a horticultural expert.

This one-of-a-kind independent store is a must for botanics, nature-lovers, and even those who can’t take care of a succulent (me). From the spiralling tendrils of plant leaves hanging from macrame plant pots to cheeky plant-themed playing cards, Hand-Spun Botanics is truly like no other botany shop. 


Final thoughts

As technology continues to evolve, ecommerce is quickly becoming the future of retailing. It is important for brick and mortar stores to adapt to the shift in consumer shopping trends in the ‘experience economy’. From in-store cafes, to community workshops, and film screenings, the possibilities for crafting a unique shopping experience are endless.

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