Profile: Meaghan Brophy of 'Independent Retailer' Shares the Latest Indie Trends

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Name: Meaghan Brophy

QB Community name@meaghanbrophy
Business: Editorial director of Independent Retailer magazine
Located: Bethel, CT with nationwide readership
Year founded: 1988

As we join the celebration of July’s National Independent Retailers Month, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to speak with Meaghan Brophy, the editor of Independent Retailer (IR) magazine. Meaghan keeps indie retailers in the know about current market and demographic trends. She understands what matters to them because she’s often out and about on Main Street, U.S.A. talking to small store owners about their struggles and their wins.

Today, Meaghan was the interviewee, not the interviewer, and we chatted about the current outlook for indie retailers (spoiler alert: it’s pretty good!) and why it’s important to support your local businesses.


Hi Meaghan! What is the Independent Retailer and what do you do there?

Hi! We’re a monthly magazine and a resource for independent retailers of all kinds. We cover industry news, product trends and the latest technology. I als write how-tos and profile store owners.

Tell me about some of the trends you’re seeing in independent retail.

There are so many! One of my favorites is seeing local businesses partnering to boost collective sales and brand awareness. For example, local boutiques might work together to throw joint pop-up shops and trunk shows or host activities and classes.

Also, many storefronts are carrying products by other local makers and artisans. This is a great way retailers can support local small businesses while giving customers a unique product selection.  

What are some of the struggles independent retailers tell you about?

Indie brick-and-mortar store owners tell me that social media and word-of-mouth are their biggest referral sources for customers, so indie retailers who struggle to gain traction on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook sometimes have a harder time reaching new customers. The good news is indie retailers are especially great at retaining customers once they do come through the door.

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Which retail businesses do you see thriving in today’s internet-driven marketplace?

The most successful retailers offer a service or experience that is simply not possible online. Great examples are indie bookstores hosting author signings or toy stores that recommend the perfect gift because they know every child in the neighborhood. Another is a boutique where busy moms can call or text when they need a gift and the retailer will wrap and hand-deliver. Today’s consumers want an experience that is super personalized, and indies can simply do a better job than online retailers as long as they get creative.

I want to text my birthday gift orders! What are some other ways that indie retailers are differentiating themselves from big box stores and Amazon?

Indie retailers are able to offer a curated product assortment that perfectly reflects their location and demographic. Incorporating products from local artisans and makers is a great way to offer unique, quality products that can’t be found online.

Why do you think it’s important to support local business?

Shopping at a local business is an easy way to support your local economy. For every $100 you spend at a locally owned business, $68 will stay right in your community. When you spend $100 at a chain store, only $43 stays local.

Wow, I had no idea!

Neighborhoods with a vibrant independent retail district also have higher home values. And independent businesses donate on average two-times as much to charities as large businesses. When you shop small, you’re not only supporting the local family who owns the business but your community as a whole.

As editor of Independent Retailer, I’m wondering what are some of your favorite stories to share with readers?

In each issue of IR, we profile one or two unique indie businesses. These are by far my favorite articles to write. Meeting retailers in person is really the best way to keep a pulse on the industry and get inspired by all the amazing small business owners.

Which stories on your site get the most engagement?

Anything with the word “Amazon” gets the most clicks. But in terms of genuine engagement and feedback, we have a lot of how-to type articles our readers tell us are very helpful.

What makes IR unique is we try to take industry news and mainstream media headlines and look at everything from an angle of how it impacts small business retailers.”

How will you be celebrating Independent Retailers Month?

By shopping small, of course! I’m lucky to live in an area with a vibrant local community, so it is easy for me to consciously (and even unconsciously!) support independent businesses.

Thanks, Meaghan. Enjoy Independent Retailers Month!

 

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Who is your favorite independent retailer and why?

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2 Comments
Community Host

Loved this interview, @SarahGonzales!!

 

@meaghanbrophy, you bring up so many great points about the value-add that independent retailers bring to their communities, from special in-store events to customized services to keeping sales dollars local. The shop-local movement has a lot of traction in my area (north of Boston), but one thing I keep hearing from independent retailers here is that they have a hard time keeping up with the rent increases in neighborhoods where real estate is at a premium. (I recently read an interesting article in the Boston Globe in which a shop owner goes so far as to observe that, "If you don’t own the building, you don’t own the business!")

 

Independent retailers working and selling collectively would seem to be one answer to this challenge. What do you think are the key drivers of this emerging trend?

@EmilyCowan that is a great point! Retail real estate is in a really interesting place right now. Mall spaces are emptying out meanwhile downtown and main street locations are at a premium.  Partnering up to share prime locations is definitely a great idea. Retailers can also try to negotiate a short-term lease for a pop up store. A lot of retailers are also hosting events to bring in more funds.