01 Sep 2020

@ Home with Therese Øertenblad

Consumers are becoming more educated and are now using their purchasing power in more conscious ways. From looking for ethical, sustainable pieces to wanting to support local artisans, the power of the consumer wallet is changing the face of retail today. With the shop local trend set to stay, learning how to succeed through promoting local, sustainable products is key for many retailers.Therese Øertenblad, founder of Small Business Collaborative will lead a panel of independent retailers as they discuss their experiences as local businesses and the power of the Shop Local movement. 

Tell us a bit more about Small Business Collaborative – why did you found it and what do you do?


I started Small Business Collaborative in October 2018 after being made redundant, it was the kick I needed make the leap into being self-employed. For years I had been exhibiting at shows and meet with lots of brilliant small brands that all needed help with the same sort of things; confidence, time-management, and industry know-how.

The high street needs more excitement again, there need to be more personality and thought for the products available and I think small unique brands and products is part of the solution, but, to make this work we need to work collaborative and not just reply on exactly the same way as we always done things.

I love what I do, I get to work with small and exciting brands with lots of drive and heaps of creativity. Together we put processes in place so that they can grow their businesses, make more profit, and sell more. I share my experience so that they do not have to do things by trail and error and waste precious time and money along the way. Working with a consultant used to be a goal but I think that now it can be the part of the journey, and you do not have to do things by yourself or keep on winging it.

Why do you think local retailers are so important for brands?

I see local retailers as the bread and butter of our industry. This has become even more evident during lockdown. Local retailers have fared so much better than the big chains. As consumers we realised how valuable it is to have these services in our cities, towns and villages. When we could not see our friends and family it is the local retailers that have helped us stay in touch with them, send cards, and gift thoughtfully.

My local gift shop, Soper & Co in Toddington, Bedfordshire, offered personal shopping via Instagram so when I needed a child birthday gift during the lockdown I DM’d owner Amy and she sent pictures of several options, I decided on a couple of things and paid via paypal and it was sent straight out all gift-wrapped with a handwritten card. That’s the sort of service we value more than ever right now.

Independent retailers to me has always been so much more exciting than the larger chain stores. They are agile, they know who they are and who their customers are. Chances are when they select a new brand to work with, they already have a few customers in mind who will just love that brand and they will know them by name.

As a new to the market brand just starting to dip your toes into supplying shops, independent retailers are much easier and less process driven than supplying the big chains. You will learn loads from working with shop owners who are just as passionate about products as you are.

What lessons have you learned from the lockdown?

On a personal level I have learned to slow down, I have taken the time to cook more, craft more and read more. Since I was already working from home it has not been a big adjustment for me personally.

On a professional level my faith in what I am doing and who I work with have just grown stronger. During the lockdown I have spoken to lots of independent retailers and brand owners on my podcast, Let’s Talk Shop and I have been so impressed by how resilient and agile smaller businesses are and how so many of them saw Christmas like sales in April and May.

I know we’re in a recession and I know things are tough but I’m very excited about the long-term changes this will have on retail and I believe that we will see more exciting and more creative products stocked by retailers of all sizes as a result of this.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to new brands looking for stockists?

Stay visible, make sure that what is unique about your product shines brightly. If you are a small owner lead brand be the face of your brand. This autumn it will be more important than ever to make personal connections and consumers want to know who they are buying from. Think about how you can help your stockists convey this in-store.

The second is to be consistent and persistent; I’m not talking about stalking retailers but make sure you put your name in the hat and don’t wait for them all to come and find you. Help them by reaching out to them to introduce your brand and your products. Tell them why their customers will love and buy your range.

What are you most looking forward to about Autumn Fair @ Home?

I think buyers and brands are both worried about finding each other and I think virtual trade shows will be key for helping buyers and sellers connect this year. I really look forward to seeing all the brand videos and the product showcases as I think these will help buyers discover those unusual things that they didn’t know they needed.

Of course I also really look forward to the panel I will be moderating on the 9th September at 1pm, Shop Local: Winning the customer voting with their wallet.

Do you have any words of positivity to share with our readers?

The lockdown has reinforced just how important small business are to our economy and I think this Christmas will be all about shopping small, voting with our money and supporting brands and stores that shares similar values to our own so retailers need your brand in their stores. Help them discover you!

Join Therese and our expert panel on 9th September 2020 at 1pm. 

Register for Autumn Fair @ Home

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