Little treats and gems of independent boutique shops

As a mum, it’s not often that I get a chance to go shopping for myself and treat myself to something really special.  A lot of the time I’m either shopping for N, or trying to rush in some shopping tasks during my work lunchtimes to enable me to keep the weekends free for doing fun things with N (or more likely chores!).  But I do like to spend time away from the samey chain shops and really treat myself when I get the chance.

In my town, as in so many others, smaller independent shops have suffered from the larger chains moving in, out of town shopping parks and the recession with people spending less.  But there are quite a few evident on our local social media sites trying to increase footfall and encourage people to visit and buy from the independent boutique shops in the old town area so I’m all for celebrating the quirkiness and uniqueness of the independent shops in our area.

Parson's St Banbury shops

If I had spare cash (and space at home with no husband to moan about ‘stuff cluttering up the house’), I’d be treating myself by:

  • revamping my wardrobe in Cactus which is the only place in our town that stocks brands like White Stuff, Ted Baker and Great Plains
  • popping in to KT Lu’s to have a chat to the owner and buy up gorgeous clutch bags and accessories for gifts for friends and
  • stopping for a quick bite to eat from the Old Town Deli & Café.

What do the independent shops have that I love?  If I give Fancy That as an example as I’ve spent some time in this gorgeous shop, browsing, yearning and buying gifts for friends in there.

Fancy That Banbury

Individuality

Fancy That is its own unique shop.  Yes, you might see the occasional product elsewhere in another independent shop, but the way it’s all put together is unique and personal to the owner.

Décor

Let’s face it, who wouldn’t be drawn into a shop that looks like that from the outside.  The window displays, the lights, it all draws you inside to see what you can find.  While some shops can feel quite impersonal, this one can make anyone feel at home.

Fancy That stairway

And while it’s quite ‘girly’ in the majority of what it sells, there is a men’s section (I was looking for a pheasant hip flask – it would have been perfect for the OH’s birthday) and a few gifts for babies.  I love the fact that independent shops tend to have much more character, and Fancy That really builds on the interior of the building it’s in.  Using the nooks and crannies, and really making you want to explore.  No wonder I heard N after he’d gone exploring up the stairs, and then calling me up after him as he wanted to see what else was up there.

Fancy That shop display

Welcoming 

You might go to a standard chain high street store and they’ll have someone at the door to welcome you.  But personally (even when done quite well – Monsoon), I often find it a bit irritating, as though they’re saying ‘I’m keeping an eye on you’.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt that at an independent boutique.  It feels more like the store staff are happy to let you browse, but are more open to questions and helping you.  When I was shopping the other day, the assistant  was quite happy to suggest other items within my budget, and asked what else I’d seen that I liked to make other suggestions.  But then she knew when to back off and leave me to it.

Customer service

There aren’t many independent shops who don’t care about their customers and that really comes across.  In Fancy That, my purchases were put in their relevant wrapping, whether it was box or gift bag, and then wrapped in tissue paper.  They weren’t even gifts, it was just something they do.  Then they pop in a mini packet of Love Hearts.  So as well as getting to browse and buy gorgeous treats for yourself or friends, there’s also an additional little thank you from the shop.  Just those final touches really help you feel like they want your custom and care about their shoppers.

Annie Haak bracelet and love hearts

With shops like this I always see so many products I’d love to take home.  Household ornaments and decorations (who doesn’t want fairy lights in their house all year round?!), lovely purses, scarves and jewellery, candles you never see elsewhere, gorgeous mirrors, just those finishing touches to make a house really pretty.

shop hidden rooms

I could very easily get carried away with buying more than I need, but know that if I’m stuck for presents for friends, that I can always rely on finding something in Fancy That or one of the other independent shops in town.  On my recent shop I bought a gorgeous (and massive) Tutti & Co scarf.  I love feather patterns although I also spotted a lovely star scarf as well; in the end I opted for the teal colour rather than the burgundy.  I’ve only got into scarves in the last year (although I’d bought some in the past), so I’m just building up my collection.

Tutti & Co feather scarf

My other choice was a delicate Annie Haak bracelet.  I’d been coveting a few of these for a while, but hadn’t realised they were stocked anywhere in Banbury.  Quite a result, so will be checking on any new additions to their display over the coming months.  I’m not usually a big jewellery fan, but these are small enough and delicate enough to be worn even when I’m typing at work, without getting in the way.

Annie Haak key charm bracelet

On this trip I did overspend a little, but I had some Christmas money that I could put towards it and both my scarf and bracelet are versatile enough to wear daily – for both casual and more dressy wear.  But that’s the point of a treat shop – to have a little treat, and buying from independent shops are like buying an experience.  The shop itself is a treat, even if you come out having not bought anything.

Are you a fan of independent shops?  What shops do you like and what do you like about them?  What dream item would you like to find hidden in a gem of a shop?

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Disclosure: I was given a voucher to spend in an independent shop of my choice as part of a Barclaycard Rewards Card campaign to celebrate independent shops.  All words and opinions are my own.

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