TheÂ British Independent Retailers Association (Bira)Â isÂ calling on shoppers to support their independent shops with its new online trading siteÂ Neartoo.co.uk.Â
The nationally-advertised platform, which launched on March 7, is designed to help high street stores recover from the pandemic. It not only allows shoppers to find out which retailers they are â€˜near toâ€™ and encourages them to explore shops which are local to where they live or are visiting, but also enables them to shop further afield – knowing they are still supporting independent traders.
With hundreds of independent shops onboard and dozens signing up weekly, Neartoo.co.uk helps shoppers find the contact details to indies in the UK, many of which offer options for home delivery, click-and-collect or in-person collection. In-built Google maps show storesâ€™ locations and help shoppers plan their routes.
The site, which has taken around 12 months to develop, also offers rewards to shoppers when they â€˜shop indieâ€™ with Neartoo Local Rewards for each purchase, creating points that can be redeemed with all Neartoo sellers. Bira has vetted each seller to ensure only UK independent shops can use the service, offering peace of mind to those passionate about supporting their local businesses.
Neartoo.co.uk complements indiesâ€™ physical stores and helps them move to a â€˜hybridâ€™ model of retailing. It also maximises consumersâ€™ growing thirst to shop locally and independently, guaranteeing that money spent within a community remains there.
Every retailer has its own individual profile, enabling consumers to know who they are buying from. This will retain the personal relationship that independent retailers and consumers value.Â Shop owners can either synchronise their existing online sales platform or create their own through the platform if they havenâ€™t been able to afford to create an online presence yet.Â
Neartoo ecommerce manager Jayne Weldon said:Â â€œWe are really thrilled to be launching this to the UK. Itâ€™s so important that we support the high street, especially now that restrictions have been lifted, as it will give our local businesses that added boost they need to get back on their feet after what has been a very turbulent two years. So, we are hoping to get plenty of shoppers taking a look and buying through the site.â€Â
â€œThe pandemic accelerated shopping behaviours, with more use of the internet and people also shopping more locally”Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre
Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre commented: â€œThe pandemic accelerated shopping behaviours, with more use of the internet and people also shopping more locally.Â This platform, owned by independents, addresses both of those societal changes – and will allow these retailers to open up new ways of selling to customers, and more profitably.
â€œThis is a really exciting opportunity for independents throughout the UK to be able to start selling online or increase their own visibility. It will get their products out to a wider audience – and the fact so many of our members have already signed up and have seen the potential is fantastic. We canâ€™t wait to see the site grow.
â€œBira wants to help independent retailers achieve their ambitions and be able to trade up against other multinational online trading stores such as Amazon. There is such a huge gap between indies not having an online presence, and we believe they have been left behind for far too long with big tech companies taking over. This is the answer for thousands of indie stores across the UK to still maintain a bricks-and-mortar presence on the high street, while also allowing them to sell online but at a lower cost.â€
Claire Leigh, director of Two Ducks – an award-winning shop offering gifts, decorative homeware, fashion, and accessories in the Surrey town of Woking said: â€œNeartoo will give us access to a much wider national market through their marketing than we can afford ourselves, and their commission is really reasonable for an independent store. The back-end of the system is really simple to operate and we get exposure locally as well as more broadly.â€
Although Claire already has her own e-commerce website, which she has been trading from for the past two and a half years, she instantly knew Neartoo.co.uk was something she wanted to sign up for.
Cathy Frost, owner of Loveone, a gift shop in the heart of Ipswich stocking gifts, cards, homewares, and accessories, also has an online site, but had been looking to raise the profile of her business. She called the team to find out more about Neartoo as soon as she heard about it. She said: â€œI knew straight away this was something I wanted to be a part of. Itâ€™s really important that small indies are able to have their profile raised and have a platform and extra voice out there. It will bring the high street to more customers, especially as more people are working from home. So we jumped at the chance and canâ€™t wait for it to go live.â€