What next for the independent retailer?

What next for the independent retailer?

Have you taken a trip to your local High Street recently?  If you prefer to stay home and shop online instead, you’re clearly not alone.

January 2018 saw retailers suffer their worst start to a year since 2013, with high-profile casualties including Toys R Us and Maplin following in the well-trodden footsteps of Woolworths and BHS.

Meanwhile, in the face of a burgeoning online clothing boom, High Street stalwart Next has reported a 2017 profits slump, forecasting a similarly troubled year ahead.  New Look has recently announced that it will be closing 60 stores, axing almost 1000 jobs in the process.

So the traditional British High Street is gradually falling into decline, characterised by empty retail units peppered with discount outlets, restaurants and entertainment venues.  As our shopping habits move increasingly online, it seems we’re more willing to head outside the front door to indulge in experiences, rather than buying physical products.

Keeping pace with change

Not only are consumers shifting their spending habits online, retailers face an ever-shifting backdrop of change that includes inflation rises, increasing staff wages, higher business rates – and, of course, uncertainty over Brexit.

Next has attributed its profits slump to “self-inflicted product ranging errors and omissions”, while Toys R Us had unwisely invested in additional retail space, seemingly ignoring changing customer habits and business trends.

To remain relevant in today’s demanding marketplace, independent retailers must do all they can not to stick their heads in the sand, and instead keep on top of business changes that send vital signals about what potential customers are actually looking for.

Find the right USP

Creating an interesting environment for people to shop in – particularly if it’s one that people want to Instagram themselves in – is one way for independent retailers to stand out.  For starters, think Selfridges-style creative window dressing!

We have also started to see some High Streets offering experiences that can’t be indulged in at home, such as ‘crazy golf’-themed restaurants, farmers’ markets, and pop-up shops featuring one-off, ‘get it before it’s gone’ items.

Get marketing

With the advent of social media, it has never been easier to advertise to large groups of potential customers.  Exclusive promotions can be easily created, while positive reviews and recommendations can be instrumental in attracting new visitors.

Create a fusion of physical and online service

When it comes to independent retail, online doesn’t have to be the enemy.  Innovative internet services, such as the advent of ‘click and collect’, solve the perennial customer problem of having to wait in for deliveries, whilst helping traditional retailers stay relevant in a new marketplace.

If all else fails, it may be worth remembering that the one advantage of independent retail over online business is in its personal service offering – often an experience in itself!

Rickard Luckin offer a wealth of business services to help support you and the changes that may lay ahead.  So if you’d like to get your retail business in the best possible shape simply get in touch with our friendly team on 01245 254200 or email enquiries@rickardluckin.co.uk

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