It’s Independent Retailer Month, and our attention is on the many entrepreneurial SMEs who bring value and wealth to our country.
Independent Retailer Month is a campaign that runs annually throughout July to highlight the essential role smaller, local, independent retailers play in the communities they serve, the local economy they contribute to, and in the retail sector as a whole.
Whilst the campaign runs for just a month, the vision is to help change consumer habits for the long term, creating more sustainable towns and communities.
Despite the impact of large retail groups, and the effects of the recent economic downturn, the future of independent retailers looks bright. Total retail sales in the UK are in the hundreds of billions, and customers are beginning to turn away from the large homogenous businesses, and embrace the local and the personal.
Independent retail is a highly competitive and dynamic sector, with many challenges. But while fledgling retailers face many hurdles, if you can overcome these you’re well on your way to adding your name to the list of over a quarter of a million successful independent shops nationwide.
To give you a boost, here are the 5 best pieces of advice for small retailers looking to establish themselves.
(1) Firstly… why?
Aside from making money, do you know the purpose of your company?
You need to be able to engage customers and get them on board with your unique goals and values. So think about what makes your business different, and then communicate this to your team and to your customers.
(2) Location, location, location
When deciding on where to set up your first store, research is essential. Have a close look at the demographic, the competition and the rent prices.
Once set up, it’s essential you get yourself the best solicitor and property agent that you can reasonably afford. A good location and a good team behind you are the two strongest investments you can make at this stage.
(3) It’s always best to test
Before you set up shop, it’s always a good idea to test your product or service. This could be through a stall, a pop-up shop or something similar. This can be a great way to test your business concept, build awareness of your brand and meet potential customers. This is also a great way to try out different locations.
(4) Be tech-savvy
These days, customers fully expect digital integration and so a website is a must; not just for sales but as an alternative channel through which your customers can engage with you. You can find out more abouthow to make a customer-friendly here.
There’s a lot to consider here. Is your site optimised for mobiles? Do you need PPC? What about your SEO strategy? But don’t worry – it’s never too late to brush up on your digital marketing skills.
(5) Be good to your customers
As any independent retailer will tell you, the most important component of any business is their customer base. These are the people who keep your company running, so you need to be able to connect with them. How often customers return to your shop (or website) is vital for your business growth.
Some key points to consider when dealing with customers are:
- Listen carefully to customer feedback, and always respond positively.
- Train your team to be excellent at customer service.
- Offer some kind of rewards programme for your most loyal clients.
- Use social media to increase your customer outreach, and engage with them on a regular basis.
The Independent Retailer Month’s website has a searchable database that allows you to find the nearest Independent retailers to you. It’s free to list your business, so what are you waiting for? Let’s be part of the future of the UK’s independent traders.