Last weekend our very own Leeds Trinity Shopping Centre opened its pop up space for the new Clicks and Mortar concept store.
Clicks and Mortar is a collaboration between Nation Enterprise, Amazon, Square and First Direct Business. The scheme has been built on supporting new local small businesses focusing on wellbeing products and sustainability, giving them a chance to sell on the high street for the first time.
I walked into the store with a huge smile on my face, so thankful to have a store like this open in my home town. The store is well lit, with minimal decor and a few plants giving natural life and colour to the black walls; a perfect home for a host of businesses inspiring us to focus on our health, wellbeing and own choices towards sustainability.
Clicks and Mortar gives space to a number of new local businesses. It campaigns for new stores to be opened across the country, and by setting up shop in various cities across the UK for a few months at a time it reaches the biggest shopping centres. Each brand commits to selling in store for at least a month, then every month the store is rotated with other new local businesses. This gives those businesses a chance to test trade through physical retail. It’s affordable and an easy time frame to manage.
Amazon’s involvement gives sellers on their marketplace a real chance at building their business and raising their profile. They recognize that physical retail and receiving face to face feedback is priceless in creating a strong brand. This is a positive step for Amazon as they have a very bad name for themselves when it comes to the death of our high street and its heavy impact on our environment.
Nation Enterprise focuses on supporting new businesses and provides them with online coaching and support. They also give them access to live events and programmes such as Clicks and Mortar, which they run. One of the ladies from Nation Enterprise explained how successful the other Clicks and Mortar events have been so far. Leeds is their fifth stop on their mission to save the high streets of the UK. She was very proud in saying that Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Sheffield have all had successful turnouts and she’s seen a positive growth in a number of new businesses.
One of those taking part in January’s space at the concept store is Shole, a young business in its first year of trading, focusing on tackling the issue of single-use plastics. Shole has come up with a range of flasks, cups and food containers using environmentally friendly alternative materials that are not only pretty but don’t compromise on quality. I spoke with Oli, one of the two founders of Shole UK. I asked him why he started the business. His reply was ‘’Honestly, I couldn’t watch another David Attenborough documentary without trying to do something to help our oceans and wildlife.’’ I totally empathize with Oli and I’m sure most of you do, too. Oli was so grateful for the Clicks and Mortar opportunity. He told me ‘’We only started last year. Rent prices are ridiculous on the high street and Clicks and Mortar have given us a chance at selling our products in person; something I didn’t think we would be able to do’’.
Ex Leeds United footballer Jermaine Becks and wife Laura Becks set up shop selling their wellbeing health focussed supplement line Supernova Protein. The protein is described as a superfine wellness powder, uniquely plant based. I was very impressed with their quality ingredients because they haven’t compromised on unhealthy additives and fillers.
OC is the only brand in store that is selling for the full three months. Conversations about our dying oceans and the future of this earth inspired the family run business. Their solution is to sell clothing made from recycled plastic and materials. They pledge 50% of their profit to Coral Reef Alliance and Plastic Oceans. These are charities focused on conserving our coral reef and regenerating our oceans.
It’s not time to say goodbye yet.
The past few decades have shown our blossoming high street shrivel up. We have watched our shops die off one by one. Every street you walk down has a sad, empty space, another dead shop. Rents for premises are prohibitive, and then there’s having to compete with prices from the internet, a combination which has killed our shops. This is not giving new start up businesses the confidence to set up on their own. Instead, businesses are ditching the old school idea of a store and going straight online. Leeds City Centre is nostalgic for me and I am not ready to say goodbye to its high street. Schemes like Clicks and Mortar are essential in keeping it alive.
I am grateful to all of the small businesses doing their bit for our planet. They have certainly inspired me. I will continue to support them and take whatever small steps I can in helping our planet. Over the next few months I’ll be excited to see what other brands go into the concept store. Hopefully, this is a positive way forward for new shops, and eventually maybe every store in town and online will be selling sustainable, honest and healthy products. We don’t have a planet B.