Shop Local: ‘It’s a case of use us or lose us’

Oui's festive display. Picture: Oui of Harpenden

Oui's festive display. Picture: Oui of Harpenden - Credit: Archant

Coming to the end of lockdown 2.0, our local indies are preparing to reopen their shop doors for a second time this year.

“It has been lovely talking to new customers and regular customers alike, to offer fashion advice from fitting to styling." P...

“It has been lovely talking to new customers and regular customers alike, to offer fashion advice from fitting to styling." Picture: Oui of Harpenden - Credit: Archant

The Herts Ad spoke with Oui of Harpenden’s Fiona Thomas about the impact of the pandemic on her independent business, and celebrating 25 years of trade.

“The support from the local community is more important than ever and it means so much when we see an order coming through,” Fiona said, noting that the uncertainty that comes with the coronavirus pandemic is one of her biggest challenges.

Fiona opened OuiSet in 1995, with her collections developing drastically over the years to provide two fully independent collections, now known as Oui and SET.

Stocking well-known brands such as Emu Australia, Ilse Jacobsen and Lisa Kay alongside her own collections, Fiona also offers a bespoke alterations and giftwrapping services, adding the extra special touches that come hand in hand with shopping local.

The Herts Ad spoke with Oui of Harpenden’s Fiona Thomas about the impact of the pandemic on her independent business, and cel...

The Herts Ad spoke with Oui of Harpenden’s Fiona Thomas about the impact of the pandemic on her independent business, and celebrating 25 years of trade. Picture: Oui of Harpenden - Credit: Archant


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“Christmas is always such an important time for many retailers, but we have all had to learn to adapt during this difficult year of lockdowns and social distancing restrictions,” Fiona said.

“Small businesses are always up against the perception that they may be more expensive than multiples for the same product but I believe this is often not the case.

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“In fact, our pricing has to be competitive and coupled with excellent customer service. There is no better place to shop than your local independent store.”

And the ways you can support your high street and local retailers don’t have to be monetary. “You can also support your local independents not only through purchasing from us but through social media: follow us on social media, like and share the posts, write a Google review, #adoptashop - where you can pledge to support/buy from your local independents - and the Herts Ad #Shoplocal campaign, spread the word!

“Independents are the life and soul of the local community." Picture: Oui of Harpenden

“Independents are the life and soul of the local community." Picture: Oui of Harpenden - Credit: Archant

“When you buy from a small business you put a smile on our face and it funds children’s school uniforms, extra activities such as sports sessions and not a CEO’s second yacht. Try to support local small business this year.”

To keep up with demand and to keep customers (virtually) coming through their doors, Oui is offering click and collect, free local delivery, and next day delivery those further afield.

Fiona also has the store telephone line transferred to her mobile, meaning fashion requirement questions can be answered at any time: “It has been lovely talking to new customers and regular customers alike, to offer fashion advice from fitting to styling.

“This has slightly made up for not seeing all our customers in the shop which is the exciting part of retail; our customers aren’t just customer they are our friends.”

“Christmas is always such an important time for many retailers, but we have all had to learn to adapt during this difficult y...

“Christmas is always such an important time for many retailers, but we have all had to learn to adapt during this difficult year of lockdowns and social distancing restrictions." Picture: Oui of Harpenden - Credit: Archant

With Christmas looming, the importance of the festive season will leave many independent businesses hanging in the balance. “Christmas will be very important to all retailers, especially this year,” Fiona added.

“I believe that the support for local independents has grown this year and communities are realising the importance of their independents on their high street.

“Independents are the life and soul of the local community. It is important to keep buying from independents during lockdowns and when we reopen, it’s a case of use us or lose us.”

To celebrate the store reopening on December 2, Oui is launching its 50 per cent off autumn/winter clothing sale in-store.

Oui houses home collections Oui and SET, as well as popular brands. Picture: Oui of Harpenden

Oui houses home collections Oui and SET, as well as popular brands. Picture: Oui of Harpenden - Credit: Archant

To shop with Oui online, visit ouiofharpenden.co.uk/shop.

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