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Shopkeeper Profile-Resident

This year we’re catching up with some of Frome’s independent shops and businesses. This month it’s one of your market day faves, Resident

We had a chat with James Borley, who set up Resident in 2015. Click here to read the full Q & A with James, who tells us about his favourite designers, how he curates Resident’s collections and his views on the changing face of retail.

Tell us a bit about your own background and journey to Resident. What’s the story behind the shop?

My background is in marketing and PR in the architecture industry, so I’ve always had an appreciation of good design. The idea behind Resident is to bring together a considered collection of wares for modern living. Everything from homeware, accessories, skincare and clothing. I pick designers and brands that aren’t necessarily household names, but that I believe are simple, well-designed and fit the aesthetic of the store. 

The shop itself started out life as a pop-up in Pop Brixton in South London, then moved online and eventually found a permanent home here in Frome back in May 2016.

 What are the benefits of having a bricks and mortar shop, rather than retailing purely online or through pop-ups?

The real beauty of a bricks and mortar shop is that you build relationships with the people around you – your fellow traders and businesses, your suppliers and of course your customers! 

I’ve learnt a vast amount in the past 3 years of having a shop in Frome and the business is very different now compared to when I first opened – I don’t think I could have learnt those lessons without having a permanent physical space to sell from.

Tell us about your curatorial approach – how do you select the brands that you work with, what’s important to you in selecting designers and artists to represent?

Simplicity, materiality and story are key. Depending on the type of product I’m buying, my criteria can vary slightly, but overall if something makes it into the shop it needs to tick all those boxes first. 

I have a real mix of suppliers in the store, from big Danish design brands like Ferm Living and House Doctor to pieces from smaller designers and makers, some of which are made right here in Frome. 

What’s your favourite Resident product?

Right now I’d probably say our Sophie Alda ceramics. She makes the most incredible vases and sculptural pieces in an incredible cobalt blue glaze that I’m obsessed with!

Part of the offer at Resident is to host workshops and pop-ups from makers or other small businesses. Can you tell us about the benefits of opening up the space in this way to different activities and collaborators?

Opening up the space for pop-ups and events is great because it gets people into your shop that might never have been in before. It can also mean people spend longer in the shop, build up a stronger relationship with you and they might even notice things in the shop they hadn’t before which can lead to additional spend which is great! 

It’s also a great way of strengthening your brand and connecting people with the designers and makers we stock in the shop and making a more coherent experience when they visit.

News outlets appear to report ore and more that there’s a change in the public’s buying habits, yet independent shops (in Frome anyway!) continue to thrive. Have you noticed a change in retail since you started out? What are your thoughts on the changing face of retail?

Retail is definitely changing, and it’s clear that big department store-style retail is suffering, and I don’t think will survive unless it really changes its game. People do seem to more interested in shopping locally, supporting their high streets and being more conscious of what they buy too, which is great for businesses like mine, but I’d say there’s still quite a way to go. 

Competition is fiercer than ever with online retailers offering big discounts, free shipping and huge catalogues of products that smaller stores just can’t compete with, so it’s important that we don’t just sit back and assume this wave of interest in independent retail will continue – we all need to up our game and offer things that the online giants can’t.

 And finally, what’s next for Resident?

I have lots planned for this year! Firstly our clothing offering is expanding from Autumn onwards with some new brands like Folk and LF Markey coming into the store. We’ve got more pop-ups in the pipeline too, the next one with an amazing jewellery designer called Sarah Straussberg. There will be some workshops and possibly a supper club coming too (but I can’t reveal any details just yet!). 

Thanks James!

You’ll find Resident at 20 Paul Street, Frome. They are open Monday – Thursday 10am to 5pm, Friday & Saturday 10am to 6pm and market Sundays from 10am to 4pm. And of course you can shop online anytime!

Market Makers! Resident are one of the lovely independent business that support us through our membership scheme, which means you can show your little red card on market days for a 10% discount! Not a Market Maker? Sign up HERE