What Does It Mean To Be An Indie Retailer?

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Interest Groups
by Tara Swiger

What Does It Mean To Be An Indie Retailer?


This is a guest post by Abby Kerr. Abby is an ex-indie retailer of a nationally award-winning lifestyle boutique + brand editor who helps creative entrepreneurs rule their realm and up their addictability factor. You might recall her fabulous guest post about what boutiques really want to buy, straight from the brains of savvy shop owners. Find Abby blogging at Abby Kerr Ink and on Twitter @AbbyKerr and @IndieRetailWhip


Main Street, U.S.A. Main Street, Anywhere. Mom-and-pop shops. Itty-bitty boutiques. One of a kind spots. Are they indie retailers? Let’s discuss.


Most shop owners, once they hear the phrase ‘indie retailer’, embrace it for themselves. It has a certain hipster-without-trying-too-hard vibe to it that suggests affiliation with a group who are really invested in making a difference in their community. We love that.


But really – what is an indie retailer? What makes one? What sets them apart as a group from other retail operations? And why does it matter?


At its most basic definition, an ‘indie retailer’ is simply a retail business that is independently owned, as in, one who does not receive venture capital or other corporately-backed funding to keep it going. Its startup funds come from the shop owner him or herself, usually as a sole proprietor or an LLC. Every new selling season is funded by last season’s revenues, with no extra infusions of cash from benefactors in suits. By virtue of your relationship with Vianza, I’m guessing that this sounds a lot like your retail business.


But is every independently owned shop by nature an indie? Are there any other qualities of indie-ness worth noticing?


Oh, so glad you asked.

Indie shops are more than just independently owned. They’re also owned by creative, business-minded people who care a lot about values such as community, collaboration, abundance, individualism, sustainability, quality, and play.


Let’s go through each indie value and give examples of what these look like when expressed within an indie retail business model.


         Community – Indie shop owners are usually deeply committed to participating in community improvement, whether that community is a neighborhood, a town, or an online buying-and-selling community. They keep an eye on local impact and interests when making decisions for their own store.


         Collaboration – Indie retailers seek out opportunities to strategically partner with indie designers, other shop owners, community organizations, and individuals who have complementary strengths and offers. They see the value in relationships and know how to leverage opportunities for the betterment of all parties involved.


         Abundance – Indie shop owners aim to stay in the mindset of ‘what prospers me prospers my neighbor.’ They choose to believe there’s more than enough abundance in the world for everyone. They focus on creating more wealth rather than bemoaning lack.


         Individualism – Indie retailers prize innovation, fresh angles, and individualized solutions, while smartly keeping an eye on the overall financial viability of any decision. Far from a one-size-fits-all business model, indies design their procedures and policies to set their staff up for success and to create win-wins with their customers.


         Sustainability – Indie shop owners understand that while no solution is the right solution for all time, they know that successful indie businesses are built with an eye to the future. They remain flexible and agile while thinking of the big picture. They scale responsibly and use resources wisely, conserving when possible and doing business locally or with other indies whenever possible.


         Quality – Indie retailers strive to maintain high production values and high taste levels as they expand their offerings. Quality over quantity wins out as often as it makes sense for the overall business model.


         Play – Indie shop owners keep retail in perspective and understand the place of their business in their customers’ lives. They keep it light, fun, and discovery-oriented, understanding that in the heart of every customer is a yearning for sensory stimulation and storytelling, no matter what’s being sold.


Indies have heart.


They love what they do, they believe in the indie retail model, and they aim to keep themselves differentiated and on-concept  with every choice they make in their business.


Indie retailers, I’d love for you to weigh in on what makes you an indie. Which of the values from the list above really resonate with you in your business? And what did I miss? Tell me about it.


For more on this discussion about indies, see this post of mine.