Tue, 30 Oct 2018
With business rates, Brexit concerns and the economic squeeze on spending, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for independent retailers to do battle on the high street – but not for one Newbury businesswoman.
Emma Bees, who runs B the Lifestyle Shop on Wharf Street, is seeing her sales boom in the shade of the Market Place and says she wouldn’t swap the boutique’s location for anywhere else in the town.
The 32-year-old opened her store in August 2017, with the hope of satisfying shoppers with something that the town’s high street chains don’t have.
The philosophy behind B is to celebrate a simple lifestyle; providing shoppers with a range of high-quality, design-led products sourced from across the globe.
As well as her main clothing range Selected Homme and Selected Femme, the shop boasts a wide variety of homeware items, such as vases, soy-lit vegan candles from Nordic home and interior design brand Bloomingville.
The shop also sells products from London-based Magic Organic Apothecary, such as facial scrubs, organic balms and ‘green’ bath potions, while Wonder Lust Life and Big Metal London are among the store’s popular jewellery lines.
After her first year of trading, B the Lifestyle has more than held its own in the town centre, where business rates aren’t always the most favourable for start-up boutiques.
The allure of eschewing business rates was always a priority for Mrs Bees – but it’s the quintessentially ‘old’ Newbury which is paying dividends, having been crowned winner of the Muddy Stillettos awards for Best Women’s Boutique in Berkshire in May.
“People say the shop’s a bit out of the way, but I don’t have to pay business rates,” said Mrs Bees, who has worked in retail since she was 16 and whose ambition was always to open a clothes shop.
“I didn’t want to start up a new business and be crippled by overheads.
“I’m not on the high street, but I love being where I am. I love being right next to the ‘oldness’ of the Market Place and at the heart of Newbury life.”
With Newbury’s new bus station in the Wharf scheduled to open in December, Mrs Bees is optimistic about welcoming new faces into her store over the coming months – which she believes could help put the shop on the map even more.
But in the ever-rising age of social media, the location of B the Lifestyle isn’t proving that much of an issue for Mrs Bees.
In fact, it occupies a vital role in the business.
The business has a following of more than 2,500 Instagram users – and it’s through the photo and video-sharing social network that Mrs Bees has found customers as far as Scotland and Wales.
“Social media these days proves that it doesn’t really matter where my customers live,” said Mrs Bees, who models items herself on social media where they soon tempt online browsers.
She said: “You could be selling out of the shed in your back garden – Instagram has made it that way.
“People will request clothes if they see them on someone, rather than being on a hangar.”