Think independently when it comes to shopping in Norwich

Make this year the time to start supporting local independent shops – it's easier than you think, especially as there is a must-attend event on the horizon, says EMMA HARROWING

It has come down to one simple fact when it comes to independent shops in Norwich – use them or lose them.

The sad news that Soho Hip in Pottergate relocated to London taking with it quirky jewellery designers Tatty Devine and N2, has left a dent in Norwich Lanes and in our city's fashion offering.

And it is shaping up to be another tough year for your local independent retailers and in fact bigger stores on the high street.

News that high street retailer Peacocks has gone into administration, independent woman's fashion retailer Vanilla has decided to close its shop on Sprowston Road and concentrate on its boutique on Ipswich Road, and many retailers reporting a quieter Christmas and New Year than in previous years, paints a grey picture of the high street.

It is not all doom and gloom. In fact there could be a little sunshine on the Norwich horizon as several independent businesses in Norwich are currently working together on the third Norwich Fashion Week which aims to celebrate local shopping.

Norwich Fashion Week was launched last February by independent business women Anita Vadhir from Vanilla and Jayne Raffles of Raffles Restaurants – owners of The Library Restaurant, Pulse, Pinnochos and St Benedict's Grill – and is supported by your Evening News.

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'When you shop at an independently owned business your entire community benefits,' says Anita Vadhir, owner of Vanilla. 'When you spend �100 at an independent business, �68 of that stays in the local community. Spend the same �100 at a national chain and the community only sees �43. Shopping at independents also mean that taxes are reinvested in the local community which will benefit you.'

With independent shops also on Timberhill, Elm Hill, Tombland and in Norwich Lanes, our city can offer a unique shopping experience. But these shops, cafes, bars and restaurants will only be around if you visit them and buy from them.

Says Anita: 'Independents offer something different from the multiple or chain shopping experience. We know what our customers want and can we can respond quickly to demand. We can also offer a one-to one service, we can call you when new stock has arrived and we offer special in-store events that you will personally be invited to. Only indies can offer this kind of shopping experience.'

And it is this kind of experience that Norwich Fashion Week highlights. The week starts on Thursday, March 9 with a catwalk show from the city's independent retailers and accumulates into a week of fashion to highlight what is available from your local shops.

Peter Mitchell, managing director of Jarrold and one of the Norwich Fashion Week board members, says that one of the real reasons why Norwich is a top 10 UK retail destination is the impressive line-up of indpendent shops. These need you support if your city is to retain this retail crown.

Says Peter: 'Norwich Fashion Week sets out to showcase fashions or other products that are innovative and distinct – ranges that stand out from those stocked in the national chains stores, and appeal to people looking for something a bit different from the mainstream. It also helps to celebrate the enormous talents of our local design communities, both professionals and students who we hope to see as big name fashion designers in the future.'

Since the launch Norwich Fashion Week has grown with many independent shops and businesses joining forces to show you what your city has to offer in terms of independent fashion and design. Norwich Lanes is one of the many retailers involved with putting on shows and events at this year's Norwich Fashion Week in March. Shona Richards, who works at Visit Norwich and Norwich Lanes, says that Norwich Fashion Week is quickly becoming an important event on the city's calendar.

'Norwich is exceptional in that it has a vast amount of independent retailers, helping make it a top 10 place to shop in the UK,' says Shona. 'We must continue to support our independent retailers in order to have great variety and choice when shopping and Norwich Fashion Week is the ideal time to do this. The week helps showcase the best the independents have to offer and is a great way to see the latest fashion from the hippest and coolest shops in the city.'

Claire Read, fashion designer and owner of independent fashion shop Poppy Valentine, agrees.

She is working alongside fashion and textile students at City College Norwich to put on the first Designers Show at Norwich Fashion Week. Says Claire: 'Having its own designers working independently in the city gives Norwich's shopping scene an extra dimension. There's not many other cities that have such a good mix of big named stores, small boutiques and independent designers.

'At the Designers Show we want to show you what Norwich has to offer from it's independent designers – from established names to emerging talent. You will see clothing, accessories and jewellery all made in Norfolk and you will be able to purchase unique pieces at the show in our exclusive pop-up shop.'

Tickets for fashion shows will go on sale in the next few weeks and there are many shopping events also taking place giving you the chance to see and buy a little piece of Norwich fashion.

Says Anita: 'This is a great time for independents to join together and shout loud and clear about what is great about shopping in a local independent shop. Those coming to some or all of the Norwich Fashion Week events will be amazed at what our city has to offer and how by shopping in the independents can give you more choice.'

Norwich Fashion Week takes place at various locations in the city from March 8 until March 15. For more information about Norwich Fashion Week and to see the provisional programme of events click on the Norwich Fashion Week link at the top right of this page.