Creativity is the key to success for Norwich retailers

Independent retailers need to come up with imaginative ways to secure their future on the high street. Emma Harrowing meets one Norwich retailer who is doing just that.

Putting the heart back into our high streets is the main aim of the Mary Portas review into the future of our towns and cities.

Norwich is lucky. We have a good mix of high street, designer, independent and vintage shops in our city centre to make it a place full of culture, good shopping and social opportunities.

Regular Life Matters readers will know however, that unless you shop in the wide variety of places in the city, the diversity and great choice we have will diminish.

Retailers also need to embrace this diversity. Gone are the days when shop owners could just sit back and watch the pounds roll in. They need to be proactive and creative in the bid to come up with fresh ways to satisfy their clients and attract new customers.

Sam Papworth owner of independent womanswear shop Nola, on Timberhill, knows how being resourceful when it comes to attracting customers can pay off. At last year's Norwich Fashion Week, Sam and her team at Nola embraced the promotional opportunities the week brings and saw profits increase.

Says Sam: 'We are pleased to be involved with Norwich Fashion Week. Everyone is focused on fashion and shopping and so getting involved in the shows, competitions and organising our own events that week resulted in us doubling our takings on the Saturday during fashion week.'

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Nola took part in the Independent Retailers Show at The Forum, but grasped the opportunity to organise their own in-store events throughout the week such as launching new collections, offering wine and nibbles, free style advice and discounts off purchases. They also promoted their activities on their website and through social media.

'We also took part in the Retail Skills Academy's window display competition in the run-up to fashion week,' says Sam. 'This involved us working with a student from City College Norwich to come up with an innovative window design for Norwich Fashion Week.'

Nola won the competition, which saw Lauren Loh from City College Norwich gain work experience at Jarrold and Nola and a free training session at the Retail Skills Academy.

Says Sam: 'Working with a college student was a great experience as it was good to have fresh ideas for our window display.

'The window advertises the shop, get it right and potential customers will come into the shop to have a look around.

'The whole week gave us the opportunity to really promote Nola and show people what we can offer.'

Sam opened Nola over three-and-a-half years ago on Bedford Street, before outgrowing the premises and moving to Timberhill one-and-a-half years ago. Now she also has a thriving online shop (a 'requirement for all retailers in this day and age') and a growing customer base who love her 'quirky Scandinavian and French inspired fashions'.

'The online side of the business is thriving,' says Sam. 'However, customers tend to look at what we have in stock online and then come into the shop to try clothes on before they buy them.'

Being situated on Timberhill is a great location for an independent who can catch people as they walk up to John Lewis, but Sam wants the street to get the same recognition as the Norwich Lanes.

Says Sam: 'Norwich Lanes has a good networking and marketing circle and most of the businesses pull together to promote the area through events throughout the year. It would be great for the businesses on Timberhill to work together in the same way to really promote this part of the city.

'As with other parts of the city, we have seen some businesses close down or move (F.A.Stones closed down last year and Ethika which sells local fashion and accessories moved to Norwich Lanes two weeks ago) and we have seen businesses open up like the little tea and cake cafe. What we need to do now is all get together and organise events that will really make this a place for people to have fun, socialise and shop.'

Nola is taking part in this year's Norwich Fashion Week, which runs from March 8 to March 15 and Sam hopes that they can have the same success again.

Says Sam: 'We are taking part in the Independent Retailers show at The Forum again, which will launch Norwich Fashion Week 2012 and we will be organising in-store events. Unfortunately we cannot enter the window competition again as we are one of the judges this year.

'I'm hoping that other businesses will get involved in fashion week.

'Even cafes, restaurants and pubs can get involved by putting on an event whether it is for this year or next.

'Independent retailers should gasp this opportunity to promote their business throughout Norwich Fashion Week, especially as the event is getting bigger. There is no telling how much custom and business you will get from it.'

Norwich Fashion Week takes place from Thursday March 8 until Thursday March 15. Businesses interested in taking part next year should contact

Your Evening News will be bringing you all the news from on and off the catwalk during Norwich Fashion Week in the paper and online at