How town centres, high streets and independent retailers can evolve “Local Destination Stores” because being an independent retailer does not mean you have to be inefficient, unattractive, and uncompetitive.
In fact in the fight for retail traffic between competing town centres the role of independents is more critical than ever in creating distinct flavour and personality. When independent retailers escape the cloak of consumer invisibility and exchange it for the colourful and attractive garb of local destination retailers then shopping venues truly begin to attract attention, command respect and pull in the customer pounds that they so desperately seek.
However to achieve this change of role the bar of retail professionalism needs to be raised higher, both to satisfy the emotions of the customer and to fulfil the commercial demands of a forward looking business.
So what are the areas of opportunity for independent retailers and how can town centres and business districts support and encourage this evolution? Whilst every retailer is different the following areas are invariably the lowest hanging fruits ready for professional picking.
A clear strategy & proposition. Whilst it’s always tempting to chase the easy pound ultimately the consumer respects and responds to the strength of a powerful and consistent proposition, selling a focused range to a defined customer. Opportunistic impulse retailing is not a sustainable substitute for authority and consistency.
Distinctive brand identity. Why can’t the visual identity and branding of independents be as clear and engaging as that of multiple retailers? Is there a limit or embargo on creativity and imagination? More than at any other level of retail a strong attractive visual identity can make a world of commercial difference.
Commercial product assortment. The world of retail buying is moving to the principle of selling “more of less” as better information and sales analysis is leading to more efficient and smaller assortments. For the independent retailer a smaller, better selected assortment has big advantages in terms of freeing up capitol in stock and overall cash-flow.
Commercial in-season management. Zara may have the high seat when it comes to fast fashion and responsive retailing but every retailer should monitor its sales, identify the trends and replenish and replace best sellers whilst shifting slow movers.
Attractive store environments. Shop interiors need not cost the earth, particularly when distressed and vintage are the vogue with their unfinished informality. The ingenuity of the imaginative independent should not be underestimated.
Appropriate customer service. Good manners, passion for product and attentive ears should always be the strength and advantage of the independent over the mass market multiples.
Daily rules & regimes. Don’t let the easy sales slip-away. This is a crime for any retailer and can be minimised by operating sensible daily routines for shop-floor replenishment and maintenance.
Appealing display & presentation. Visual merchandising is as much about clear commercial control as some mythical and magical creativity. Standing out as an independent can be as simple as being bold and consistent.
Exciting promotions & events. Quite often the biggest opportunity to increase sales turnover is to entice your customer to visit and purchase just one more time per year. Achieving this through events and promotions can be the best form of return on investment.
So how can the caring and concerned retail destination, council or BID help to achieve this dramatic change – through the availability of an “Independent Retailer Support Kit” and the active marketing of the benefits of it to its incumbent independents.
The support kit should be produced in collaboration with best practice retail expertise and comprise both physical documents as well as live support in the form of access to hands-on assistance. To make this essential resource cost effective a collaborative approach is required where the investment in expertise can be equated across a number of retail business whilst being funded and allocated from a central control hub – council, BID or retailer organisation.
Physical tools should include buying & merchandising manuals, branding and store fixture guidelines, daily and weekly schedules and checklists, VM display principle manuals, generic retail calendars and training modules. Accessible expertise should be made available as “diagnostic store visits & interviews,” “retail surgeries,” “collaborative workshops on buying and merchandising” and “creative interactive classes on branding and design.”
And how to kick those intransient individuals into action? Nothing works better than an initial, interactive workshop allowing all parties from all sides to discuss openly and honestly their concerns and wishes. Dialogue and informal exposure to advice and expertise for nothing is the only way to kick-start the acceptance of weakness and the momentum for improvement.
In summary, independents are the key to retail destination traffic development. The bar however must be raised and the retailers elevated to the status of local destinations. Invest in some advice and expertise because when the “destination snowball” starts rolling the commercial benefits will be to the advantage of all, not least the retailers themselves but also to the retail community and destination town as a whole.
What level of professional retail skills do your retailers have?
What support do you provide to evolve traditional independents into local destination retailers?
“The right shops & the best shops”
VM-unleashed has developed 2 tried & tested deliverables to make any high street retail offer relevant, competitive and commercially successful.
Venue Mapping ensures that any retail location has the right critical mass and mix of shops, cafes and leisure outlets, the correct market positioning and a hit-list of appropriate retailers.
Vendor management works with councils, BIDs and individual retailers to introduce best practice retail processes and awareness, and advise on the introduction of tools across a retail community such as façade restoration, visual merchandising, loyalty programmes and online fulfilment.
Find out more at…