21-year-old entrepreneur launches ‘real life Not on the High Street’ at Wilton Shopping Village
Wilton Shopping Village reveals the newest jewel in its crown this week with the launch of its new shopping concept Chalke House Emporium.
Dubbed as being ‘like a real life Not on the High Street’, the 1,500 sq ft shop is home to products from more than 50 independent makers from across Wiltshire.
As well as showcasing the work of local artisans, collectors and creatives, it is also anticipated that Chalke House Emporium will act as an ‘incubator’ for local start-ups, enabling them to make those crucial early sales that will help them take their business to the next level, with the eventual aim of diversifying and/or expanding to their own premises.
The store is owned and run by 21-year-old entrepreneur Kellie Gentle. A Wilton native, owning her own shop has been her dream since she was a child. She’s also a keen ‘maker’ herself, producing her own range of quirky crochet figures available for purchase instore.
For Kellie, Chalke House Emporium has the potential to capitalise on the increasing appetite for ethically-produced products from independent retailers. She explained:
“The way we shop is evolving. Mass-produced identikit products have their place but as the popularity of retail marketplaces like Etsy and Not on the High Street shows, consumers are increasingly looking for items that are hand-made, personalised and original.
“And when you’re looking for something that little bit special, there really is no substitute for shopping in person, where it’s easy to stumble across the sort of one-off pieces you didn’t realise were missing from your life till you spotted them – whether that’s a handmade soap or rare collectors’ item.
“However, as retailing becomes increasingly homogenised and wider issues like business rates mean that smaller operations are priced out of the market, this sort of authentic shopping experience is harder to come by. It’s a real gap in the market and that’s where we come in.
“Our customers can get lost in exploring unique creations that simply aren’t going to be easily found via a search engine or algorithms. It’s definitely a clear area in which bricks and mortar shopping has the edge over internet retailing and we think it’s going to be a huge hit with shoppers here.”
“What I may lack in terms of retail experience I like to think I make that up with my enthusiasm and belief that physical shops have an important part to play for years to come. I’m also thankful to have support from experienced retailers who have a deep understanding of the changing landscape in retail. We’ve adapted the previous incarnation of the shop which was successfully run for over four years, and I am looking forward to many more years of success myself”.
The launch of Chalke House Emporium comes hot on the heels of Wilton Shopping Village’s partnership with Portas Agency – headed up by industry expert and TV personality Mary Portas – to help shape the vision for the next 20 years of its development.
A key part of the evolution of Wilton Shopping Village is adapting to current and anticipated retail trends. For example, while online retailing is frequently assumed to be over-taking bricks and mortar retailing in all areas, preferences continue to change. Research from IBM showed that 98% of Generation Z shoppers preferred to shop in person rather than online. Similarly, recent research from YouGov revealed that nearly half (42%) of consumers prefer to shop with independent retailers because they prefer to support smaller businesses. In line with these trends, part of the long-term vision for Wilton Shopping Village includes acting as a hub for local, independent brands and offering an immersive, rather than merely transactional, experience.
Discussing the launch of Chalke House Emporium, Phil Maclean, Senior Marketing Manager at Wilton Shopping Village said: “Retail is changing and after decades of mass-produced products, consumers are increasingly seeing the value of hand-made, locally produced items made by independent retailers. And while internet shopping may be quick and convenient, it simply can’t compare with losing yourself in a treasure trove of original creations. As the original home of Wilton Carpets, our site has a proud heritage as a hub of creativity and fine workmanship. This is simply the latest chapter in our proud history.”