Working together works

Norwich LanesNo wonder Norwich is in the top ten shopping destinations in the country. The warren of small, mostly pedestrianised streets known as Norwich Lanes, boasts a stunning range of unique, indie shops. The streets in this medieval city are a delight to explore. Having carried out extensive research over the years I was struck by the trend towards collaboration between the shops.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons many of these small traders are thriving despite the economic situation.

As a perfect example The Birdcage pub regularly invites its customers to bring fish and chips from the Grosvenor Fish Bar opposite the pub to share over a glass of fizz. Fizz and chips goes down well after a busy day at the office.

One of my ‘offices’ Franks Bar, a quirky and much loved café/bar makes a speciality of connecting with other traders. They put books, often written by local authors, from the nearby, award winning Book Hive on its shelves for people to peruse over a slice of honey and orange cake or a platter of Cromer crab. Iittala, the Finnish inspired designers have also teamed up with Franks Bar who showcase their quirkily designed crockery.  The Whiskey Shop who also have whiskey tastings in local venues such as Cinema City, one of the country’s best indie cinemas housed in a building with an extraordinary history. It is believed that the oldest surviving parts of the building date from the 14th Century. This was a period of great prosperity for Norwich as Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III, had established a colony of her fellow countrymen, Flemish weavers, in the city. Its role as the chief centre of the wool weaving industry led to Norwich being the second city of the kingdom for much of the medieval period.

Even businesses that share a similar market are getting together to create a better experience for their customers. Dance Fitness Norfolk participants regularly visit  Fitness Ballet classes which are held at The Garage one after the other. Friendships formed through serendipitous proximity and now both classes meet occasionally for a curry at a local curry house.

A recent survey of the Norwich Lanes outlets confirmed that over 65% are actively engaged in trading collaborations with nearby shops. A strategy that enhances both the businesses’ reputations for being positive and outgoing and the customers’ experiences.

The biggest collaboration between the Lanes’ traders comes with an annual Summer Fair. This year on the 7th July and well worth a visit to Norwich. Streets are closed to traffic and filled with colour, bustle, music, the smells of delicious food and stalls of every kind. Rekindling the memory of similar activities in ancient Norwich in a delightfully modern way.

I like the way Norwich traders work together. It makes being in business a little more sociable, a little more fun and sometimes the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts. Let’s compare notes. What examples do you have of joint ventures between businesses in your area.

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