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Independent Retailer Month Diary – week 2

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By Clare Rayner

So, we’re ½ way through the month already! This week my Google alert has been telling me about lots of local press coverage – it seems up and down the UK Independent Retailers are making an effort to do something different to attract more attention to themselves this month!

One article that came to my attention from across the Atlantic was very encouraging – this quote in particular resonated with me “Buy local campaigns, such as Independent Retailer Month, have spread across Main Street USA like wildfire. And as a result, participants of these campaigns noticed new customers to their business, as well as an increase in customer loyalty.”

What was so reassuring about this is that whilst a new campaign can’t change the fortunes of the retail sector overnight, by spreading a positive message and by reminding consumers to shop local, step by step (Or should I say footfall by footfall) things will begin to improve.

This week one particular group of independents has really made an impression on me. They are based in a really unusual retail venue – Birds Yard based at 83 Kirkgate in Leeds. Birds Yard is celebrating their 1st Birthday on 29th July and combining that with their own Independent Retailer Month celebrations to showcase their retailer occupants – all the details can be found on their events page.

As a quirky, independent premises with many unique retailers and designers trading from the building, they’re taking the opportunity to delight visitors with the sheer variety and creativity of their occupants. They’re hosting a tea party; a long island iced tea party! They’re promising cocktail fuelled, vintage crockery; with local bands, DJs and burlesque; vintage apparel and hand-made eye candy! Who wouldn’t be impressed!

This week also marked the first of the 3 free online retail surgery sessions I’m hosting – a number of very different independent retailers joined the session and we talked about 3 topics based on their current concerns – stock control, marketing and HR. We were lucky to be joined on the call by Karen Young, and independent HR expert with a background in retail.

One of the key points that came out of that conversation was that most of those on the call have a loyal, engaged customer base – but they wanted to expand it. We agreed that offering special in store events, bring / refer a friend scheme etc could be a quick win for many of the retailers – in particular if (for example) a fashion boutique could team up with a wine merchant and a deli they could together host an evening fashion show event, with drinks and nibbles, thus giving their customers samples of their best products and encouraging in new visitors too… so this week my tip for increasing sales it to look at your loyal customer base – is there anything that you could do to encourage them to refer a friend too?

Taking advantage of their advocacy is one of the simplest and most effective ways of marketing, and, it needn’t cost you a penny – if your customers are genuinely happy with your service you might only need to ask for their help and they will be only too happy to oblige!

Next week, our 3rd week, and I’m really looking forward to my 2nd online surgery session – it’s great to ‘meet’ so many passionate business owners and share ideas together. I’m also looking forward to hearing more stories from the retailers, and seeing them all getting lots of local press coverage as well!

You can read Clare Rayner’s Independent Retailer Month diary on Retail Gazette every Friday throughout July.

Published on Friday 15 July by Editorial Assistant

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