Recently we sent out requests through modern means, including social media, and more traditional means, such as posters on our shop windows and word of mouth requesting local designers craftspeople and artists to contact us if they wanted an outlet to stock and sell their lovingly crafted creations.
So far fifteen local designers in Claygate and Surbiton have made contact. We are methodically seeing them and their products. Some have declined to participate but we are having continuing dialogue with most of the others and we are still encouraging yet more to contact us.
Why did we do this?
Although Hoi Polloi has always tried to be different from most gift shops and lifestyle boutiques it has been increasingly hard to find traditional giftware, home ware, furniture and card companies who are doing things just that bit different from each other .We have always felt we had been successful at doing this over the past eighteen years. However, we have become increasingly aware over the past twelve months or so that these traditional companies have become a little too safe in their new products. Many are copying, or at least imitating each other, which means many new products look similar to one another and true creativity although still happening, in some cases, is occurring less and less frequently. Fortunately we have been mainly successful in finding new companies and sticking with the ones who are bucking the sameness trend and being adventurous.
However the result of this trend is like most of the modern high streets, gift shops and the like have been increasingly looking the same and not offering real choice to discerning shoppers.
Thus we have a vacancy in our shops for more diverse products, items that are truly different from the vast majority of other shops.
One option open to us would be to source products from other countries ourselves rather than letting giftware and home ware companies do this for us and buying their products at trade fairs. This way we would cut out the middleman/woman and make the selection process completely down to us. We still plan to do this in some areas and we have our eye on two European countries specifically,
The major alternative to this non UK approach is to look very closely on our own doorstep in Claygate, Surbiton and nearby areas for those local designers who are being particularly adventurous.
Over the past few years, we had been approached by quite a few local people who in their own words wanted to get their products “out there!”
Unfortunately, although we would have liked to help local craftspeople there were usually several stumbling blocks
Sometimes the product was simply not good enough, or poorly made. If we liked the product and quality was good it was normally too expensive. Mostly this was because the craftspeople didn’t really understand wholesale prices and the costs of running a high street retail shop.
Sometimes designers wanted us to sell items in our shop for say £20 and would insist on selling directly to customers via their own website or Facebook for say £15. This meant that we were just a showroom and it made customers think we were relatively expensive if they were internet savvy.
Other times the products did not compare favourably with our existing mainstream stock and other times they just didn’t complement our other ranges. Lastly some locals wanted their products to be stocked in other local shops too.
Of course, on a couple of occasions we just didn’t have the foresight and played safe ourselves.
Ok then, what has changed?
The blandness and safety first approach of national suppliers (see above) has begun to annoy us.
Many local designers have really upped their game by increasing the quality of their products, designing products that people actually want and lowering their costs of production, or at least providing realistic wholesale prices. Such crafters have also worked hard to establish retail channels for themselves. For example, the “Made in Surbiton” group have been particularly successful and enterprising in establishing themselves at the growing number of local markets that have recently arisen in the wonderfully creative town of Surbiton.
We have endeavoured to create a new business model which we think is a win:win for Hoi Polloi and the local supplier. It enables the craftsperson to do what they like to do and what they do best, which is designing and creating their lovely products . At the same time it enables us to do what we like to do and what we do best and that is selling stuff that is both pretty and useful. This model won’t work for every local craftsperson of course and nor should it. However it will work for many and it does encourage diversity and certainly helps artists who don’t want to to spend a significant amount of time selling their own products directly to consumers.
We have really wanted to change our own mindset and we have become committed to boosting the local economy. It is the zeitgeist. Many people want to buy locally from local suppliers
Anyway, this week is a big week for us because we officially started stocking the lovely products of the first local company that has agreed to partner with us. This company is Better Bunting, a Surbiton based home business run by Rachel Crunkhorn. This week might be a big week for us; however today, Friday 30, will be a huge day for Rachel because she is getting married. So let’s raise a glass to our new partnership and an even bigger glass to the bride and groom.
To finish, we encourage you to look in our Surbiton, Claygate and this online shop for more of our “Made in the Hood” products.
Buy local and shop local