31st December 2014

Strategy

Now that the season of ‘good-will shopping’ has ended for yet another year, retailers large and small will be looking for ways to encourage us consumers to continue spending throughout the January sales.  But hold on a minute, didn’t we have sales in December?       . . . . and November?

More so than any year preceding it, the end of 2014 saw large retailers both on-line and in the high street slash their prices to entice shoppers to ‘shop ‘til they drop’.  So how can the small independents possibly compete?  How can smaller retailers avoid being swallowed up and spat out by their larger distant cousins?

Here is a list of pointers that could just help to encourage shoppers to spend large with small businesses –

Be different – if there’s one thing that the chain stores struggle with it is originality.  Most larger stores have the same merchandising, selling the same goods with little acknowledgement of regional differences; relying on the brand and not the products.

A smaller retailer can take note of local tastes and spending trends.  Do this by offering bespoke or personalised items, perhaps reflecting their location and using other small businesses as suppliers; this could also encourage exclusive lines.

The personal touch – we all like good customer service and are quick to shout very loud (to whoever will listen) if we have a negative experience when purchasing our goods.  So with this in mind a small business can capitalise on offering excellent customer service alongside superb product knowledge.  A customer needs to feel valued and by listening to their requirements and going that extra mile, the potential financial saving that may occur by shopping in a large store, can be replaced by the priceless experience of feeling ‘looked after’.

Get ‘techy’ – love it, or loathe it, social media is here to stay, but how many smaller retailers use it to its full potential?  Many consumers use this ‘alchemy’ to take pictures (Instagram, Snapchat) and report on their daily exploits (Facebook) in real time so why not encourage this while they’re shopping?  Offer incentives to customers that ‘post’ about your business which can be shared with all their contacts.

Incentives – and for those maybe not quite so prevalent on-line, an independent retailer could offer deals and incentives for multiple purchases, design loyalty cards that encourage repeat custom and give customers access to a catalogue for those niche purchases

Make it convenient – although larger stores appear to be open 24/7 there are times of the day and week where a local shop could benefit from opening slightly different hours.  Maybe offering ‘appointment only’ open days when new lines are introduced or just being prepared to be open and available to help when most businesses are closed.

So perhaps by implementing some of the above smaller businesses will experience ‘buy, buy’ instead of ‘bye, bye’ from their customers.

Suzanne Willett –Nwes Enterprise Coach

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