Small Business Saturday Blog

Life in the fast Laine

Wednesday, November 21 at 15:34

Boutique gift shop, Present in the Laine hit the bohemian streets of North Laine, Brighton almost five years ago. A gift and accessory haven single-handedly created by Caroline Clifton, it is a great example of the unique charm small businesses bring to local communities. 
The reason for launching her own shop? “I had just had my first child and wanted to create my own work. Previously I’d been working as a gift buyer for a start-up, so with the experience of that combined with my fashion merchandising background, I felt equipped to face the challenges of running my own small business. It felt like the culmination of everything I’d done up to then and chance to do things my way .”
Doing this has provided Caroline with the flexibility that she’d craved, and Present in the Laine has provided the shopping district that is its namesake with a stylish and colourful gift shop.
It’s clear that the boutique has a special place in the hearts of the locals. Caroline only hires from the local community, and the long-term commitment of customers that began from the moment Present in the Laine opened its doors, is testament to locals’ affection for the shop: “From the day we opened there was a hugely positive response. All the visitors commented on the great atmosphere – and the amazing smell thanks to our candle range!
“I get complimented every day on what lovely products we have, and I love meeting lots of lovely, friendly customers who are enjoying their shopping experience in an independent store!”
Despite such early popularity, Caroline has had to adapt her strategy and introduce an e-commerce side to the business, working with an online marketplace for independent boutiques. This has resulted in Present in the Laine driving traffic to its website and growing its online sales.
Competing on the high street is often the biggest challenge a small business will face. But with a large numbers of tourists flocking to Brighton every week, tempted by the allure of streets teeming with shopping opportunities, and with the backing of the likes of AMEX and its Shop Small campaign, Caroline feels like small businesses always have the ability to keep up. “The collective charm of the many local shops, including ours, intrigues and draws them in.”
This collective has also showed spirit in the face of high street adversity. Brighton’s high street network has come together and on 6 December this year, over 100 shops in North Laine will open their doors for a late-night shopping event, offering customers promotions – and prosecco – as well as extra time to complete their all-important Christmas shopping, encouraging shoppers to do so with small businesses.
Of course, this isn’t the only time this December that North Laine’s shoppers will be encouraged to shop local, with Present in the Laine set to take part in Small Business Saturday on 1 December. A member of this year’s Small Biz 100, Caroline says that it was already being a part of such a great local small business network in Brighton that encouraged her to apply:
“I am heavily involved in the network of small businesses here and I am passionate about helping the independent traders of North Laine. The Small Biz 100 is a wonderful initiative which highlights the important role small businesses play in the local community.”
Small Business Saturday will hopefully kickstart Present in the Laine’s busiest period. Christmas brings a rush of visitors on the hunt for unique and thoughtful gifts – something which this small business is all too happy and equipped to provide.

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