Collaboration in retail and creating a community: Prior Shop

Prior Shop: Creating a community in retail

Winner of the Good Retail Awards’ Community Award, Prior Shop, has designed a non-profit independent shop, workshop space, gallery and community hub in Bristol’s City Centre. Modern Retail had the pleasure of speaking with Beck, Founder of Prior Shop about her inspirational approach to collaboration in retail.

Meet Prior Shop

Prior Shop is a fully independent, female-founded and staffed shop with a gallery space and community workshop hub that delivers results for makers, as well as the wider community as a whole.

Set in a prime location, Prior Shop is a retail shop that provides a platform for modern, high-quality products that are consciously and responsibly made by small, independent brands.

Prior Shop: Creating a community in retail

The importance of collaboration in retail

Prior shop has worked fantastically to create opportunities for independent creatives to sell in high-footfall retail spaces. Founded on the belief that the creative community in Bristol deserve real, practical support, Prior Shop has brought the work of 150 independent creatives into a retail space that is normally reserved for big brand names. Beck explained the benefits of collaboration for makers and customers:

“There is such a disconnection between typical large High Street retail brands and handmade work. Everyone thinks the two are separate, but in Prior Shop, I’m merging the two together so you don’t have to go to markets or independent shops on the outskirts of the city to buy these things. There are so many benefits of buying from makers rather than a faceless brand, with better quality and everything being unique. It’s so important for artists to have that platform in shops. The goal is to make independent work more mainstream and show that common misconceptions, for example the idea that handmade work is lower quality, or is made only as a hobby are untrue.”

“Working together benefits us all, as we are strengthening the message about the benefits and strengths of independent, unique products made by individuals. Sharing this message supports other similar creatives while growing popularity amongst shoppers.”

Prior Shop: Creating a community in retail

Building a community

With each creative being hand-picked by founder, Beck, every one creates low-impact, sustainable, handcrafted work. This has allowed these fantastic makers to sell alongside the likes of Oliver Bonas and Ted Baker. Beck explained her approach to building relationships with new and exiting makers.

“I want to make sure everybody is part of this journey and I’m always looking to share opportunities. People trust me and I’m a maker that has gone through the whole system of having a full-time job and doing product design as a side hustle, then selling in markets, to having small shops and then a bigger shop. At every stage, I have consideration for the makers and treat designers how I want to be treated. Having this transparent communication with makers and a collaborative approach works to build a community.”

A one-of-a-kind instore experience

In Prior shop, the approach helps to share and celebrate the story behind each and every product and maker. Beck explained: 

“When things are handmade with such care, from the design process all the way through to the end result you see on our shelves, it’s treated with such care and that resonates into the space.

“Especially since COVID, people have really appreciate that shopping experience and we’ve made it nice to come into Prior. Most of the staff are makers too, so understand the passion for these items. Everybody working in Prior Shop has a notebook and researches each artist, so when a customer comes in, they can explain the story behind every item. Because we’re so invested and the makers are so invested, it makes it so easy to communicate this passion and engage shoppers.”

Prior Shop

Running events and thinking outside the box

Prior Shop has gone above and beyond to enable businesses to make collaboration in retail possible. With the goal of being much more than just a place for makers to share their work in a retail space, Prior Shop supports them practically, by running small business mentoring workshops, running monthly pop-up ‘meet the maker’ markets to solidify connections between makers and customers, and pitch to press on behalf of artists.

“With my nature of wanting to share and involve everyone, these events came naturally. I’m dyslexic and always struggled with public speaking, but now realise it’s something I’m really passionate about and as time goes on, I’ve realised I have a lot of knowledge and skills to share. I started finding my voice when I did research around posting to the EU, because I knew so many independent businesses were confused. I turned my findings into an infographic and sent it around to all the makers we stock. They loved it and asked for it to be made public, so I did and it went viral. It was then that I realised there was value in this for others.

“Then I did another and kept getting invited to talks and different workshops. I’ve run workshops for the Craft Festival and Bristol City Countil and we’re starting to run our own in-house co-working sessions, where small businesses meet up once a month at Prior and we share what we know. Then we spend the rest of the day allocating time to working with each other and putting everything we’ve learnt into practice. I run it with someone else who runs the Bristol Markets platform and it works well, so people can ask questions and work together in ways that you couldn’t if you were learning alone at home.”

Highlights of Prior Shop

Prior Shop has successfully created a space that feeds back into the local economy, supporting local creatives and providing outlets for their work to be celebrated. Their work last year alone injected £150k back into the creative community in Bristol in sales of makers’ work. Beck spoke about just some of her highlights since launching Prior Shop.

“There have been so many incredible moments, but the one that stands out most to me is when I walk to work and go past Harvey Nichols, Hugo Boss, Apple, Oliver Bonas and you get to us. This makes me feel so proud daily, to not only have a space here, but to hold onto a space in such an amazing location. You couldn’t get more prime retail than where we are… and we’re here and we’re doing well.”

Beck Prior

Winning at the Good Retail Awards

Having won the Community Award at The Good Retail Awards, Beck explained what this achievement means.

“What warms my heart about this Community award is that there are plenty of generic awards out there, but this one is what the core of Prior is all about; the creative community and bringing them to mainstream retail. It’s everything we do, so to win the Community Award for me was like a recognition of being far more than just a retail shop and the response from makers has been in line with this. The coverage of our products and the recognition shows that people are just as invested in this as we are.”

Catherine Erdly, Founder and Retail Strategy Consultant of the Resilient Retail Club, commented, adding: “Love the focus on stock management! It’s brilliant that Prior Shop is able to create such a valued community hub, which I am sure that the many makers really appreciate!”

Click here to view the full list of Good Retail Awards 2023 winners.