By Clare Rayner
This is the last of my diary updates for the first ever Independent Retailer Month (IRM) in the UK. I must admit as I write this I feel a little emotional! I’m reflecting on what was achieved with no budget and very little time. It was all thanks to an incredible amount of support from so many people who really value the independents as a critical component of the retail sector as a whole. Oh, and who could overlook the most amazing amount of passion, enthusiasm and excitement from the independent retailers themselves?
It’s been a very full-on month - to have announced my involvement as official UK partner for IRM just eight weeks ago on June 2nd 2011, to launching our UK logos, website and social media presence on June 13th, to where we are today. Stepping back to write this now it really dawns on me that as a first ever event it’s been a resounding success, and, it proves to be a great trial for Independent Retailer Month 2012, which we now have 11 months to plan ahead for.
I’ve personally had the pleasure of running three free webinars to provide indie retailers with advice. I’ve also encouraged some to provide guest blogs for a blog-a-day for Indie Retail. Through these two activities I’ve encountered a really inspirational group of indies who I’d like to give a mention to - each impressive for different reasons…
Modish Shoes in Cambridge - Sarah provided a fantastic guest blog about lessons learned from her recent store opening, a really professional independent whose brand, offer and store interior is bang-on for her target customer, a definite success story in the making.
Amabo Boutique in Lytham St Annes - a regular contributor to the weekly webinars. Natalie is passionate about her customer experience and the delight they should feel when they purchase a stunning new outfit. She explained that to guarantee customers enjoy their shopping experience with her regardless of spend, that she refuses to use anything less than her best quality bags and well presented tissue-wrapped garments, even when on sale. She certainly reinforced my advice about “when you can’t compete on price compete on service” and was a great example to others on the webinars.
Will Run in Preston - a specialist sportswear retailer. Will is so keen to ensure his customers get the right product for their needs, with the best possible fit and comfort, he encourages them to try running their choice of running shoes on his in-store treadmill - certainly his customers comfort levels will be guaranteed when they buy from him.
The Hub Direct in Dunblane. Helen is a serial retail entrepreneur with retail brands from toys to wine, DVD rental to jewellery. Helen’s ability to both diversify her offering whilst maintaining a clear brand message to the consumer for each of her trading areas proved that a small business can have many strings to its bow and outwardly appear to be a much more significant scale of operation.
Legends Gift Shop in Preston. Alison explained on the webinars how her customers see her as their best kept secret, and whilst fiercely loyal it is difficult for her to leverage their loyalty and create customer advocates because they consider her shop to be a wonderful discovery and somewhere that they can always finds gifts that surprise and delight their friends and family. Alison helped us shape a discussion about how to leverage this “best kept secret” kind of loyalty to increase customer visits, basket size and value.
Lynn of Tea Room Boutique in Backridge Farm, near Waddington. Lynn runs a really unusually hybrid retail format that includes ethical fashion/eco clothing and a tea rooms in a stunning rural setting. Additionally she has a dedicated one day a week for personal shopping by appointment. Her model is so different, refreshing and innovative that she just had to have a mention!
So, finally, what is my top tip for the week to increase sales? Well, based on my six indies above I’d distil it down into one simple message – execute your business with passion, enthusiasm and excitement – it’s infectious – it reaches your staff, customers, suppliers and all those around you. When your customers receive service from a motivated, passionate member of your team they’ll surely want to come back, and, recommend you to their friends.
Thanks for reading my updates over the past few weeks, and here’s to planning ahead for IRM 2012 – let’s make it a truly Olympic occasion!
Clare Rayner is the Managing Director of consultancy Retail Acumen, and has written a Independent Retailer Month diary for Retail Gazette throughout July.