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How online marketplace Trouva is taking on the big boys of retail

Britains high street has taken a battering over the past six months,withan estimated 1,334 shops closing,or earmarked for closure, since January, according to The Telegraph's store closure tracker.
More than 23,400 jobs have been put at risk as retail giants including Mothercare, Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser have shut a number of their branches.
Analystssay that while higher wages, increasing costs and a decline in consumer confidence have hit retailers, the real pressure has come from the rise in business rates.
Steve Rowe, chief executive of M&S, revealed thatthe company decided to close its Covent Garden branchafter it faced an untenable rate rise of almost ?500,000 in a year.
Added to that the increasing competition from online rivals, which offer convenience and typicallylow prices, and its easy to see why traditional bricks and mortar stores are struggling.
Trouva, a five-year-old London-based company, is hoping to reverse the fortunes of the British high streetwith its online marketplace, which brings together more than 450bricks and mortar boutiques from across the UK.
How online marketplace Trouva is taking on the big boys of retail

Alex Loizou (left) and Mandeep Singh

Credit:
John Nguyen
Claiming to be the antithesis of online giants such as Amazon and eBay, Trouvaoffers a platform for independent shops and boutiquesto get in front of an online audience that they wouldnt otherwise have access to.
This empowers them to out-compete the retail multiples and ecommerce giants who sell online from faceless warehouses, the company said.
It has so far proved successful for the shops that have signed up, delivering around ?100,000in sales every year for the top bricks and mortar shopsfeatured on the site. Trouvatakes care of the inventory management, marketing and customer service, enabling smaller businesses to focus on improving their physical stores and products.
It takes a commission on each sale a shop makes, but there are no listing fees.
To maintain its positionas a marketplace offering carefully curated products from design-led boutiques, Trouva is selective about the shops it accepts, and most arerun by designers or ex-buyers, and, crucially,those that already havesuccessful stores.
Singh admits his 50-strong team are super picky about the curators they have on the site and he says they decline the majority that apply.
1,300 retail store closures and counting: tracking the high street's miserable start to 2018
While they have around 450 store partners at the moment, they want5,000 or morein future. The aim of the business is to expand into creative capital cities around the world, such as Berlin, where they launched last month as their first market outside of the UK.
Singh is passionate about helping smallboutiques thrive, and believes Trouva is somewhat of anantidote to their squeezed profit margins, brought about in part bysoaring business rates.
Independents are incredibly vulnerable to business rates. Any small change can make them unprofitable. We are helping by opening these businesses up to audiences across the world, he says.
He believes the business rates system is antiquated, and bemoaned the fact that bigger brands like Tesco whine about business rates, while independent stores are getting lost in the message.
He said: Large retailchains have the PR engines to kick up a fuss, but while independents have a stronger case, they are largely ignored by the Government.
Retail store closures tracker
Despite business rates having an impact on profitability, Loizou is confident online and offline stores will prevail, as shown by the fact that successful online businesses are still opening bricks and mortar stores, such as Amazon, which openedits first supermarketin Seattle, this year.
Singh is more scepticalabout the future of high street retail. The revolution is yet to come, he says. Ecommerce only accounts for 15pc of UK retail sales, so what happens if this increases? Theres going to be the decimation of big chains that wont survive against Amazon.
There needs tobe some acceptance of that. Bricks and mortar retail isnt dead,but its going to change beyondrecognition.
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