The UK’s 50 most fabulous independent shops

·21 min read

Bertie’s of Bay

This heritage clothes brand’s niche is reviving the nautical styles traditionally worn on the Yorkshire coastline where it is situated. It was started in 2016 by Matthew Pugh (“With £500 in my pocket for stock and a dream of creating something upmarket, unique and special”), who soon began working with local historians to reinvent the classic fisherman’s sweater without seams, using 100% British oiled wool, which is what people seek this Robin Hood’s Bay nook out for.
The Old Bakery, Chapel Street, Robin Hood’s Bay YO22 4SQ (bertiesofbay.co.uk)

Crane & Kind

Run by sisters Jemma Lascelles and Polly McLachlan, family lifestyle store Crane & Kind stocks children’s clothing, toys and essentials “from small indie enterprises often started by women like us with a passion for creating something beautiful”, says McLachlan. As well as items which are fun, forward-thinking, sustainable and representative, the duo’s Live Kind initiative sees proceeds from their in-house-designed collection donated to children’s wards, and to create care packages for bereaved parents and survivors of domestic abuse.
Market Square, Sidmouth EX10 8AR (craneandkind.com)

Triangle Store

Stocking Universal Works cardigans alongside Grown Alchemist toiletries and LF Markey dungarees, this Clapton store is the result of “local and loyal customers”, says founder Tory Mullen, who started it as a vintage shop in 2014 before diversifying her offering in 2017 to become one of the East End’s most popular destinations for curated cool. Mullen now also designs a line of jewellery each season, made by Karin Andreasson and also available online where minutes could easily turn into hours.
81 Chatsworth Road, London E5 0LH (trianglestore.co.uk)

Not Just Another Store

Joel Adebayo photographed at his store “Not Just Another Store” located in a loft apartment in Shoreditch. Joel Adebayo is the Co-founder of “Not Just Another Store” and UTTER Group, a retail company and consulting firm that helps retail companies and fashion brands with business development, marketing strategy (including direct to consumer strategies) as well as manufacturing.
‘It’s a blessing to be here’: Joel Adebayo. Photograph: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

Featuring more than 25 international and independent brands spanning fashion, literature, art, homeware and interiors by designers from across the globe, Not Just Another Store focuses on “experiences, people and culture”, says co-founder Joel Adebayo. From emerging designers such as Sandy Liang to more established, sustainable brands like Re/Done, it’s a rich mix. “To be an independent business in the UK is a privilege and a blessing – we get to build a community of consumers who become an integral part of our mission to serve and invigorate high-street retail.”
8-13 New Inn Street, London EC2A 3PY (notjustanotherstore.com)

Angela Flanders

For those who want to immerse themselves in the heady world of perfumery, Angela Flanders perfumers is an immersive experience. Founded eponymously in 1985, it continues to thrive on London’s Columbia Road, now run by her daughter Kate, who presides over in-house scents, such as amber noir, bluebell and mandarin and mint. Home fragrance, skincare and therapeutics are also available in store and via its boutique-style website that beautifully mirrors the romance of its bricks-and-mortar shop.
96 Columbia Road, London E2 7QB (angelaflanders-perfumer.com)

The Green and Found

Describing itself as a “sanctuary of art, craft and nature,”, Green and Found sells everything from vintage planters and found objects to a colourful selection of moulded glass candles – all of which are limited edition, artisanal or hand-crafted. Founded by James Shouli and Adolfo Ramos Alicart in December 2020, it has already become an integral part of the vibrant Deal community and an online go-to, with a regularly updated website. “We wanted the shop to be a place that is thoughtful, individual and with truly personal service. And everyone in Deal has been so supportive,” says Shouli.
Captain’s Garden Stables, Victoria Road, Deal CT14 7BA (thegreenandfound.com)

Studio Muse

Specialists in handmade vegan beauty and home fragrances, Studio Muse in Pontcanna is “a heart-led brand championing self-love and feeling good again”, says owner, and former beauty industry professional, Amy Adams. Alongside the luxurious local spa goodies, candles and diffusers, Adams delights in British-grown, fresh-cut flowers, plastic-free floral design and “spending time curating our brand to service our local community”.
1A Pontcanna Street, Pontcanna, Cardiff CF11 9HQ (studiomusepontcanna.co.uk)

Last Night I Dreamt

With well-known and emerging jewellery brands sitting beside each other, Nottingham boutique Last Night I Dreamt is a physical and online dreamscape for magpies. Founder Rebecca Gibbons’s raison d’être is human connection. “We experience laughter and tears, people sharing their stories and leaving our boutique happier than when they came in and with stunning sparkles in hand! I believe it’s this connection and magic that can only be found in small independents.”
6-8 Queens Street, Southwell NG25 0AA (lastnightIdreamt.co.uk)

Fabhatrix

Situated in the heart of Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, Fabhatrix sells hats that are handmade using British wools, felts, tweeds and cottons. You name it, it has it, from trilbies to tricorns, silk fascinators made using vintage brooches and whimsical patched top hats using upcycled Harris tweed jackets. Established by milliner Fawns Reid in 2002, it has become a city destination that prides itself on its variety as well as its wide range of sizes.
13 Cowgatehead, Edinburgh EH1 1JY (fabhatrix.com)

Eye Room

Run by husband-and-wife duo Tomas and Hafiya Oppedal, Eye Room is the only independent opticians in Leeds city centre. Specialising in frames from other independent optical brands, it has been bringing its brand of hygge to Yorkshire with its Scandinavian-style shop since 2015. Being independent is central to what they do, says Tomas. “We thrive on offering an alternative to those who seek to be individual, and love the connections we make with our customers.”
9 Mill Hill, Leeds LS1 5DQ (eyeroom.co.uk)

Robinson’s Shoes

Founded in 1954 by Billy Robinson as a shoe repair shop, Robinson’s has evolved to become a firm favourite on the Belfast footwear scene, having been taken over by son-in-law Robin Stewart. Selling classic as well as contemporary takes on traditional shoes, such as loafers, Derby and boat shoes for men and women, its own Robinson Irish Brogue remains its niche product.
25-27 Queens Arcade, Belfast BT1 5FE (robinsonsshoes.com)

London Undercover

Honouring the art of umbrella making in a modern context, London Undercover is the secret go-to capital independent for fashion brands and brolly aficionados alike. Hand made using traditional techniques and craftsmanship, its offering spans classic wooden-handled covers and everyday foldable options in neon greens. At its impossible-to-choose-from online shop, personalisation by way of engraved collars and leather foils allows customers to make this quintessentially British accessory extra special.
28 Lamb’s Conduit Street, London WC1N 3LE (londonundercover.co.uk)

Sancho’s

‘It’s about better choices’: Kalkidan Legesse.
‘It’s about better choices’: Kalkidan Legesse. Photograph: Karen Robinson/The Observer

An early advocate of making sustainable fashion desirable, Sancho’s opened in Exeter in 2015, established by Kalkidan Legesse and Vidmantas Markevicius. Its mission was to “help people make more environmentally sound choices”, and it curated an offering of more than 100 verified sustainable fashion brands to help them do it. “We get to build a like-minded community, support brands that are changing the world and find ways to creatively represent our values both on the high street and online,” says Legesse. To complement their curated brands, they have recently launched their own line of cotton loungewear, also available on its body-positive website.
117 Fore Street, Exeter EX4 3JQ (sanchosshop.com)

North Street Potters

A local institution for potters and aspirational ceramicists, North Street Potters has “remained determinedly independent”, says its founder Naine Woodrow, since she set it up in 1978. Making hand-thrown tableware, she has ensured her local business has “gone from strength to strength with very many women working and training with us over the years”. Their pieces are for sale at affordable prices and not only sought out “enthusiastically” by new customers, but restaurants, too, thanks to the made-to-order option.
24 North Street, London SW4 0HB (northstreetpotters.com)

Merchant & Mills

Founded by Carolyn Denham and Roderick Field in 2010 to shine a light on the art of sewing, handmade fabrics and pattern-cutting, this Rye shop is somewhere you can guarantee on finding a rare and unique roll of cloth, from raw linen and ikat weave to triple-stripe ticking. Meanwhile, its online haberdashery not only sells the best scissors, buttons and other tools, but also sewing patterns which come with detailed notes on what you’ll need to make your own.
14a Tower Street, Rye, East Sussex TN31 7AT (merchantandmills.com)

Papersmiths

Diaries, pencils and Post-its never looked so good, thanks to Papersmiths. As well as stocking niche brands from around the world in store and on its colourful website, it has its own charming line of British-made notebooks with multicoloured pages. Run by Sidonie Warren (who started the business in 2013 “with £500, lots of help from family and friends and an obsession with stationery and paper goods”), its three shops – the other two are in London – thrive off “community-driven, creative neighbourhoods”, says Warren.
21 Sydney Street, Brighton BN1 4EN (papersmiths.co.uk)

Present & Correct

“If it’s nerdy and attractive, then it’s in!” says Neal Whittington, the graphic designer who founded stationers Present & Correct in 2009. In its current Clerkenwell location (and via its ridiculously shoppable website), customers can expect to find “everything from postage stamps, old forms and labels, pencils and notebooks up to desk organisers, giant paperclips and toolboxes”, which he sources from more than 18 countries. Highlights include new and vintage office supplies and a retro line of “pick ’n’ mix” erasers.
23 Arlington Way, London EC1R 1UY (presentandcorrect.com)

Janet Bell

Started by husband-and-wife Janet and Sean Bell in 2007, Beaumaris-based Janet Bell Gallery & Lifestyle Store sells original acrylic and watercolour artworks by Janet, depicting the sweeping vistas of the Anglesey coast, complemented by Scandinavian homeware in a nod to her Danish roots. “We love being able to support other small businesses, and work with many local independents in championing the beautiful Isle of Anglesey and what it has to offer,” she says.
11 Church Street, Beaumaris LL58 8AB (janetbell.co.uk)

Born & Bred

Born & Bred is a studio-cum-shop where customers can watch makers, artists and jewellers work, and then buy their creations. Established by silversmith Linzi Rooney, who found herself looking for company while she was freelancing solo from home with a newborn in 2014, it has become a space for people to mingle, get inspired and support each other in setting up their own independent ventures. “Our goal is to help makers take creative projects from hobbies and side-hustles to profitable, sustainable businesses,” says Rooney.
60-62 Ann Street Belfast BT1 4EG (wearebornandbred.com)

House By Betty

With a focus on household accessories that are “useful, beautiful and not over fussy, whether they are 100 years old or new,” House By Betty is an emporium of treasures. Founded by Lauren Treharne straight from university, it is now situated in a national building in Carmarthen, thanks to a crowdfunding effort during the pandemic, patrons of which can now bag marbled enamel mugs, rattan mirrors, bamboo rakes and wooden postcards, all of which make Treharne’s discerning mix.
17 St Catherine’s Walk, Carmarthen SA31 1GA (housebybetty.com)

Form Lifestyle Store

The Manchester-based Form Lifestyle Store specialises in small-batch ceramics thrown in the UK by makers who founders Elly Amoroso and Harry Williams work closely with and support. Stocking only small, independent artisans in their Northern Quarter shop and on their beautifully shot website, the pair eschew big-name brands to ensure transparency and shine a light on talented, unsung creatives. “The pieces that we stock have been made slowly and with care; with a focus on natural materials, longevity, and simplicity in design,” says Amoroso.
6 Bradley Street, Manchester M1 1EH (form-shop.com)

Les Couilles du Chien

“The beauty of being an independent is the freedom to offer customers a very personal edit of items from all over the world,” says Jerome Dodd, founder of antique shop Les Couilles du Chien in London’s Golbourne Road. His shop has been a destination for interior fiends since 1994. “Our motto of ‘re-use the past to create the future’ could not be more apt at a time when sustainability should be top of all our thoughts when making purchases,” he says.
65 Golborne Road, London W10 5NP (lescouillesduchien.com)

Retro Vintage

Founder Stuart Murray only discovered his passion for midcentury furniture four years ago, but, “It was love-at-first-sight,” he says. “I wondered if I could make enough of a living from dealing in these wonderful items to allow me to indulge my own love of design.” Fast forward to 2021 and he’s getting to do both, with a showroom in central Glasgow and the other just outside in Stewarton, where he was brought up. “It’s really nice to be bringing the business here,” he says. His website gets a weekly update, too, with original pieces by Breuer and Eames.
44-45 Magbiehill Park, Stewarton KA3 3DX (retrovintageonline.co.uk)

Bound Concept

Bound Concept is one of Belfast’s top spots for a “sculptural ceramic vase or lighting that serves as functional art”, says co-founder Tara Thallon. Drawing inspiration from her travels, Thallon, along with co-founder Natalie Davis, stocks items by a range of independent artists and rising stars – such as Slowdown Studio’s embroidered rugs, and Kristina Dam Studio with its minimalist cabinets and glassware – in its store and on its website, which resembles an interiors shoot of its own. “When you go to a beautiful city for the first time, it is the independent and wonderfully unique stores run by hard-working enthusiasts that you always remember,” she says.
108 North Street, Belfast BT1 1LE (boundconcept.com)

Nil Living

Starting off as a market stall before taking up residence in Newcastle’s Grainger Market, Lucy Ritson’s chic and colourful Nil Living emporium is the first dedicated zero-waste refill shop in the city. Loved for its liquid and food refills, including everything from hand sanitiser to washing detergent on tap, its bare-brick trendy New York-style interior puts sustainability and style side by side. “I found adapting to a zero-waste lifestyle was overwhelming, time consuming and not easy, so I founded Nil Living to give everyone the choice of a sustainable lifestyle,” says Ritson.
The Grainger Market, Grainger Street, Newcastle NE1 5QW (nilliving.com)

Pilea

Situated in owner Lula Oatley’s “dream premises” at the top of Catherine Hill in Frome, Pilea Plants is home to classic as well as more unusual houseplants, such as the Alocasia Baginda Dragon Scale – otherwise known as the exotic elephant ear. Oatley’s MO is educating her customers “so that they feel confident taking a plant home and nurturing it. Most plants aren’t provided with the information needed to know how to keep them happy,” she adds.
16 Catherine Hill, Frome, Somerset BA11 1BZ (pileaplantshop.com)

Objects of Use

A trailblazer in the genre of modern hardware stores, Objects of Use could be mistaken for an architects’ or artists’ studio such is its curation of contemporary craft-led home, gardening and camping tools. Conceived by Alexis Dexter and Hazel Rattigan, the shop collaborates with independent designers to bring consciously made utensils and accessories from around the world to a UK audience, venturing to Japan, Korea, and Finland, as well as staying local.
6 Lincoln House, Market Street, Oxford OX1 3EQ (objectsofuse.com)

Jacksons Nurseries

Family-run Jacksons Nurseries has been a Staffordshire favourite for more than 50 years, but thanks to its incredibly comprehensive and regularly updated website that offers customers the option to buy by flower colour, flowering time, foliage type and hardiness, it has become a UK jewel. With a farm shop and a tea room, it is a great place to stop for a scone before perusing its collection of secateurs.
Thorney Edge Road, Bagnall, Stoke-on-Trent ST9 9LE (jacksonsnurseries.co.uk)

David Penton & Son

An oldie and always a goody, David Penton & Son is the sort of hardware DIY store that all others are modelled on. Still trading from Marylebone Lane where it has been doing so for 167 years, it now also offers a delightful website where you can buy all the things you can’t find anywhere any more – Ajax powder, Red Buoy soap, banister brushes, or spring balance, anyone? (If they haven’t got it they will try to order it.)
64 Marylebone Lane, London W1U 2PE (pentonshardware.co.uk)

The Goods Shed

“Our main purpose is to be a platform or conduit for local produce for Kentish farmers, this hasn’t always been the easiest option but is our reason for existence,” says director Susanna Salt, founder of food hall The Good Shed in Canterbury which is widely regarded as foodie Nirvana. The finest local meats and cheeses sit alongside larder staples and charcuterie delicacies – produce which Salt credits to the agility that being an independent business brings. “We have the flexibility and agility to respond positively to the issues facing food supply chain particularly the last few years,” she says – a flexibility that extends to local delivery via its well-stocked website.
Station Road West, Canterbury CT2 8AN (thegoodsshed.co.uk)

Mellis Cheese

‘We connect with customers’: Rory Mellis.
‘We connect with customers’: Rory Mellis. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Observer

Established in 1993 by Iain and Karen Mellis, this family-owned institution is now run by their son, Rory. Only dealing with small-scale farmhouse cheesemakers and producers, and specialising on those from Scotland, the business prides itself on getting to know everyone who walks through their doors. “Independent businesses have a massive advantage in this sense as they can really connect with their loyal customers, which is the bread and butter of any retail business,” says Rory. “Our customers are one of the most important factors to us and we are incredibly thankful to them.”
6 Bakers Place, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 6SY (mellischeese.net)

The Bishy Weigh

The Bishy Weigh sells hundreds of eco pantry ingredients – like dried fruit, cereal and pasta – as well as toiletries and household goods by weight, so customers can refill used containers or recycled paper bags and avoid waste by buying the amount they actually need. “We love to source our products from local suppliers and producers wherever possible,” says Alice Hildred, who started the York business in 2018, describes it as “more than just a shop, we are part of our local community”.
1 Bishopthorpe Road, York YO23 1NA (thebishyweigh.co.uk)

Parish Wines

What this local Walthamstow village shop doesn’t know about wine isn’t worth Googling. As well as having more than 100 different quality varieties starting at decent prices (what it calls its “bang-for-buck” wines), it also runs a successful membership club which starts at £33 and a popular delivery service via its almost too-easy-to-use website. It runs a loyalty programme, too – get 10 stamps, get a bottle of wine for free – which has proven more than a little popular with locals.
21 Orford Road, Walthamstow Village E17 9NL (parishwines.co.uk)

William Curley

If you had to choose one chocolate shop to get locked into, you should make it this one, from the cheery orange shop front to the beautiful array of chocolates inside, all found in a cute, secret little courtyard – it’s amazing. Individual chocolates, chocolate-covered dates, chewy bars, biscuits: heaven. Find it and get lost in it.
33 Smith’s Court, London W1D 7DP (williamcurley.co.uk)

Misco’s

Meg and Cisco moved into their blue-tiled Staffordshire shop earlier this year. Misco’s cake balls (gluten free) are legendary, but then so are most of the amazing chocolates they sell – locals are rightly proud and boastful of this small but lovely shop. Look for the assorted boxes of delicious little chocolates tied up with colourful bows – never mind about the perfect present for anyone else, buy one for yourself. If you’re lucky they may be selling homemade crumble-topped stewed fruit with ice-cream and caramelised almonds.
14 Sheepmarket, Leek ST13 5HW (miscoschocolates.com)

Paul A Young

Although Paul A Young’s Soho shop is larger, his Islington shop is in a little passageway, which all adds to the feeling of discovery. The knowledge from the chocolatiers is seductive and you can buy loose chocolates, bars or hot chocolate. Look out for the brownies: whether or not you’re a fan, his are amazing.
33 Camden Passage, London N1 8EA (paulayoung.co.uk)

Dormouse

If you need just one reason to visit Dormouse’s little shop it could be to buy its legendary Toasted White chocolate. But there are also many others. There is a great core collection of craft chocolate (both its own and other makers they admire), but also seasonal offerings in funky square bars. This Christmas, look out for Get Stuffed and the Stollen bar.
Unit O, Deansgate Mews, Great Northern Warehouse, Manchester M3 4EN (dormousechocolates.com)

Pump Street Chocolate

Orford is a tiny village near the coast of Suffolk, but it has much to offer: it’s home to the Pump Street Bakery, where the best pastries are sold (and people queue down the street) and right across the road is now a dedicated chocolate shop selling not just Pump Street chocolate, but great bars from other makers, too. A favourite here is rye crumb, milk and sea salt, but you can also find vegan milk versions and caramelised nuts, hot chocolate flakes and seasonal chocolate shapes.
1 Pump Street, Orford, Suffolk IP12 2LZ (pumpstreetchocolate.com)

Wright’s Food

A shop and kitchen, Wright’s is run by Maryann and Simon Wright, who specialise in local and organic produce such as lamb and beef from Pembrokeshire, free-range pork from Carmarthenshire, fruit and veg from a farm in Cardigan and an own brand Tomato Catsup red sauce named as a nod to the family cat. “Working with other small producers means we can make use of gluts, which become chutneys, sauces and the like, and come together to support each other which has been even more important.”
Llanarthne, Carmarthenshire SA32 8JU (shop.wrightsfood.co.uk)

Monorail Music

With a mind-boggling breadth and depth of new and secondhand vinyl, and an equally good website, Monorail is regarded as the best record shop north of the border. Regular customers include local royalty such as Mogwai, Belle & Sebastian, and Optimo, making for an inclusive sense of a local music community hub.
97 King Street, Glasgow G1 5RB (monorailmusic.com)

Banquet Records

Banquet stocks a decent spread of contemporary vinyl, majoring in punk/emo. Its USP lies in its outside-London postcode and yet its close proximity to the capital, which enables bossman/councillor Jon Tolley to put on live events that don’t clash with London gig exclusivity, in good-value deals for tickets, albums and merchandise.
52 Eden Street, Kingston, Surrey KT1 1EE (banquetrecords.com)

Kingbee Records

A survivor from the golden days of record collecting in the 80s, this vinyl institution in trendy Chorlton has a reputation as one of the best secondhand shops in the UK. And Kingbee’s website is well updated with reassuringly expensive rarities, particularly 1960s pop and northern soul.
519 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton, Manchester M21 0UF (kingbeerecords.co.uk)

Resident Music

This hipster’s heaven carries all the latest alternative-leaning vinyl releases and reissues, and a substantial selection of back catalogue, too. Resident’s snazzily presented website also offers a useful list of local gigs stretching through to late 2022, for which tickets can only be bought in person or over the phone.
28 Kensington Gardens, Brighton BN1 4AL (resident-music.com)

Honest Jon’s Records

Now unrivalled as London’s most pan-globalist record store, Honest Jon’s has been at its Portobello site since 1974, with financial backing from Damon Albarn. It stocks every strand of music, from jazz, blues and reggae, through to dance (Latin, techno, etc) and the more outré stuff that they invitingly call “outernational”.
278 Portobello Road, London W10 5TE (honestjons.com)

Mr B’s Emporium

For fans of Jane Austen, a visit to Bath is a must, along with a visit to a bookshop which is becoming an institution in its own right. Mr B’s Emporium offers bespoke reading subscription services, as well as “reading spas” where a team member chats through your reading tastes over tea and cake and then draws up a recommended reading list for you. Just be sure to book ahead for those as they are very popular.
13-15 John Street, Bath BA1 2JL (mrbsemporium.com)

Book Corner

This pretty bookshop in Saltburn is as charming and elegant as the town itself. Owned by budding author Jenna Warren, it has a great range of paperbacks, with a particular focus on contemporary fiction, and Warren is always happy to make recommendations. Her online shop is well stocked, too.
24 Milton Street, Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire TS12 1DG (bookcornershop.co.uk)

The Portobello Bookshop

In a coastal suburb a few miles to the east of Edinburgh’s city centre, this bright and breezy shop is brilliantly stocked with an extensive but carefully chosen range of titles. Meanwhile, online they sell other delights including signed titles, boardgames and stationery.
46 Portobello High Street, Edinburgh EH15 1DA (theportobellobookshop.com)

Salts Mill

Find this gem of a shop in what was once the largest industrial building in the world. Today, the vast building is a cultural centre at the heart of a Unesco world heritage site which houses exhibitions, art galleries and also this fantastic bookshop which is a treasure trove of contemporary art titles, poetry, local history as well as signed first editions.
Victoria Road, Saltaire, Shipley, West Yorkshire BD18 3LA (saltsmillshop.co.uk)

Gay’s the Word

Soon after Gay’s the Word opened in Bloomsbury in the late 1970s, the content of its books was considered so obscene it was raided by Customs & Excise and its stock seized. The shop’s success in challenging that view was pivotal in the fight for gay rights in the UK. There are now quite a few LGBTQ+ bookshops around the country, but do stop in and visit the original. It’s still a hub of the community, and also a vibrant and welcoming bookshop.
66 Marchmont Street, London WC1N 1AB (gaystheword.co.uk)

Persephone Books

Persephone has reprinted out-of-print tomes by mid-20th century female writers since Nicola Beauman founded it in “a room above a pub” in 1998. It has now relocated from London to Bath. Novels mingle with cookery books and memoirs. “People ask how we choose our books and the answer is we have to completely and utterly love every single one,” says her daughter Fran. “It is a cliché of publishing that a book will not sell unless someone is passionately behind it, but it’s true.”
8 Edgar Buildings, Bath BA1 2EE (persephonebooks.co.uk)

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