Published on January 21st, 2016 | by Orla Taylor-Davies1
The Importance of an Independent Reading
Independent retailers; the little fish in the big sea of the high street, swimming the exhausting struggle against the tide of unmanageable rents, brand competition and domination, and economic instability. And yet, often the sole example of personality in the homogenised high streets of today’s town centres.
This month has seen the closure of several examples of independent retail in Reading’s town centre; small businesses such as Reading Bicycle Kitchen and Zoe’s Gallery, residing in Jackson’s Department Store have been told to relocate, Mix Cocktail Bar has closed after nearly a decade of success and beloved hippy hotspot Shakti, a Reading institution since 89’, is set for closure on the 28th January.
Such closures are a blow to the alternative scene of Reading: as these hubs of interest lose the already tough battle to remain on the High Street, with them goes another facet of Reading’s personality and character.
It’s another sting to those who remember the days before the domination of The Oracle and Broad Street Mall, and who have struck up a personal relationship with the owners of these shops, earning themselves the status of a regular in places where regulars are treasured individuals, not just another customer at a till bank.
Where next for these shops? Relocation, online selling, or just plain, final closure. With so many obstacles in the way of success that these places deserve, the future of independent retail in Reading is not looking promising.
Many of the recent closures are not the result of lack of trade but due to landlords and developers who hope to benefit from Reading’s economic success. At times it feels like customers and business owners are powerless against larger forces and trends.
But what can we, as customers, do? Treasure what precious selection of independent retailers Reading holds – Frock’n Roll, But is it Art?, Eclectic Games and The World Shop just a few to name-appreciate them and hope they remain as long as they choose to. Cherish the individuality these retailers weave through Reading culture, because without them, we are without a significant contribution to Reading culture.