By Clare Rayner
It is only one week into Independent Retailer Month (IRM), but a huge amount of time and effort has been put into raising the profile of the UK’s indie traders.
Events organised in the last seven days to promote the sector include a Skillsmart Retail led bus ride through Barrow and a celebration at Liverpool One’s new skills academy arranged by the National Skills Academy for Retail (NSAR).
Retail consultant Clare Rayner, who has helped bring IRM to the UK for the first time this year, tells Retail Gazette about how her week has gone.
During the week I’ve heard from some fantastic retailers, ranging from a mobile high-quality fish & chip shop in Leeds to a start-up sofa specialist called Seriously Sofas in Kingston-upon-Thames.
I’ve been most inspired by the start-up business – in the face of such carnage on the high street they have defined a niche, determined a proposition and are very close to launching what I believe should be a very successful business.
I’m really pleased with how IRM is progressing, considering we only announced the event on June 2nd. It’s been great to see so much interest through the Facebook page and on Twitter. On Monday we launched a new facility on the official website where retailers can list their outlet/e-commerce site and include a summary of what activity, promotion or event they are planning to offer in support of the month. We’re also now eight days into the blog-a-day for Indie Retail event – where we’ve secured 31 guest bloggers to share advice, hints and tips relevant to the independent retail sector.
Obviously I’d love to see even more retailers supporting, it would be great to get some of the larger organisations involved, but for a first time in the UK and being only eight days in, I’ll just have to be patient and maybe plan to widen our reach for 2012!
Advice to independent retailers
This is a common question - and I could write a book on it! Essentially I ask them to look at margin and profit - not just sales - in order to identify their best performing products and their most valuable customers.
Retailers need to work on a number of areas to lift sales. I often speak about a four-step process which creates an upward spiral - attract, convert, retain and recommend.
Essentially independent retail is about drawing in more customers, ensuring conversion (right products, price, availability), keeping shoppers coming back and encouraging them to recommend the retailer to their wider network.
By increasing footfall, conversions, retention, frequency of visit, basket size and loyalty they have the recipe for improving their sales, but also more importantly, their profitability.
Independent tip of the week
This week I’ve visited The Dressing Room in St Albans – this is a stunning boutique, incredibly well presented, well managed and it has been successful as a result. Deryane Tadd, the owner, spent 12 years in retail multiples from store manager to operations manager to director level before starting out in 2005. She’s written a fantastic blog as part of the blog-a-day event and I am confident her practical advice will really help a great deal of smaller retailers.
The seven days ahead
Next week I’m looking forward to running my first of three free online surgery session for independent retailers – on Monday 11th from 8:30pm to 9:30pm. Up to 25 retailers can join the discussion, and I’ll be answering questions, sharing ideas and giving advice. Retailers can register free here.
I’m also hoping to see more indies taking advantage of the UK shops directory on our main website and also sharing photos and stories of what they’ve been up to on our Facebook wall. Essentially I just hope that the word spreads and more independents get involved!
You can read Clare Rayner’s Independent Retailer Month diary on Retail Gazette every Friday throughout July.