Independent retailers looking to operate successfully in a market currently dominated by large multiples and affected by low consumer confidence have been urged today to encourage loyalty and build relationships with their customers.
Using social media to boost engagement with shoppers and having a complete understanding of their local catchment area are also vital processes in allowing independent businesses to thrive, according to retail expert Clare Rayner.
Her comments come on the first day of Independent Retailer Month (IRM), which aims to draw attention to a sector that has arguably been neglected as larger companies in the industry have increased their presence across the UK.
Monday July 4th 2011 has been dubbed ‘Independent’s Day’, with consumers being encouraged to shop in their local retail outlets and suppliers set to learn more about the potential benefits of building relationships with indies.
It is a move to boost British high streets at a time when vacancy rates are high and many firms are struggling, and comes as TV celebrity Mary Portas undertakes a review of the high street for the government, although the Mary Queen of Shops star is not involved in IRM.
“Independent Retailer Month is mainly a campaign to encourage the independent retailers to celebrate themselves, to encourage customers and suppliers to celebrate with them and to draw attention to the sector,” Rayner explained.
“I’ve managed to get 31 fantastic business experts and retailers to provide a guest blog, and, as of 10am today we’re releasing a blog-a-day for indie retail.”
The importance of social media for independents cannot be underestimated according to Rayner, who has been dubbed the UK’s Retail Champion for her work promoting the industry, but she feels there is much more they can do to continue operating successfully in such a tough climate.
“Negotiate on every outgoing – if you don’t ask you don’t get,” she argues.
“Landlords would rather have continual occupancy, rates being paid, premises secure and maintained than a vacancy – in a challenging market there is always opportunity to ask for some leeway – you’ll be amazed at how you can reduce your outgoings.”
Independent retailers will be able to share advice and experiences such as this throughout the course of the month, and those involved in the sector will be hoping it provides the base from which to grow their businesses further in the years to come.