The British Independent Retailers Association (Bira) has launched Neartoo, a new online trading platform to help independent businesses recover from the pandemic.
The website will launch in February 2022 and aims to provide independent retailers with a new, cost-effective way to sell online, helping them build their presence both locally and nationally.
The platform was developed in the wake of the pandemic, which saw one in five independent businesses closing for good. Neartoo will offer retailers the chance to rebuild and grow their business on an efficient platform designed for them.
Retailers will use Neartoo in conjunction with their physical stores, moving towards a ‘hybrid’ model of retailing.
Each retailer on the site will also share individual profiles, so the customer knows who they are buying goods from, to retain the personal relationship valued by retailers and consumers.
Hundreds of Bira members have signed up to the platform, as it was launched to businesses before going live to customers. These retailers are able to either sync their existing online sales platform or create their own.
“The pandemic has accelerated shopping behaviours, with more use of the internet and people also shopping more locally. This platform, owned by independents, addresses both of those societal changes, and will allow these retailers to open up new ways of selling to customers, and more profitably,” Bira chief executive officer Andrew Goodacre said.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for indi’s throughout the UK to be able to start selling online or increase their own visibility. It will get their products out to a wider audience and the fact so many of our members have already signed up and have seen the potential, is fantastic.
“Bira wants to help independent retailers achieve their ambitions. If there is another lockdown it will mean that stores can still sell through click and collect and not lose business to other multinational online trading stores such as Amazon. There is such a huge gap between indi’s not having an online presence and we believe they have been left behind for far too long with big tech companies taking over.
“This is the answer for thousands of indi stores across the UK to still maintain a bricks and mortar presence on the high street, while also allowing them to sell online but at a lower cost.”
For Bira members, use of the platform is free for 12 months, and for non-Bira members, they can sign up and get five months free.