Retail – a challenging space to exist in

The plight of the High Street is well documented.   Drowned out by Amazon and repeatedly battered by high rents and rates, what does the future hold?

Change is coming, absolutely, but is this a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  It is important to adapt and flex, and we need to develop along with evolving consumer habits.

This is a challenge for town planners, government and retailers alike, and a monumental one at that, for the extinction of the British High Street would be a tragedy indeed.

Already you see a parting of the seas between ‘popular’ towns and not so popular.  There is an argument to say this is progress.  A thriving town is a place of excitement and opportunity.  A town in the doldrums is a sad place to behold.  People have so many choices now when it comes to where and how they spend their leisure time, and this is what retailers need to realise.   Going to the shops now is not a necessity – you can get everything you want online, so it is a choice made as a way to spend your leisure time.

So, as retailers, how do we convert this desire for leisure time into footfall and sales?  The answer is to make the High Street and your business somewhere people want to be!

Retailers and Local Government need to realise that collaboration and cooperation is crucial.   Towns need to be attractive, they need to be convenient, they need to be somewhere worthy of spending time.

How can you as a retailer use this information to plan your marketing and make your businesses fulfil their potential?

– Think about your customer’s experience – what do they gain from visiting your bricks and mortar store?  How can you partner with other businesses in your town?   You need to make it worth their while to come in as opposed to ordering online.   

– Think about your customers pain points, and how your business can solve them.    The pain point could be as simple as wanting some time to themselves!  Solving this could be as simple as making your store a wonderful relaxing place to be (this could be what you are known for – have wonderful diffusers with great calming scents for instance.  Smell is one of our most powerful senses).  You could take it to another level – can you add to the experience?  Maybe you have a back massager they could sit in?

– People love to know the journey and background to a product.  There is a growing trend for loving every item you have, for slowing down the consumerism.    With supply chains effected by Covid-19, people have started to take note of where their products come from, supporting local more than ever.  

– Engage your customers in the production of your goods.  Show them how they are made, show the love that goes into this.  Show how you test for quality – Ikea do this to great effect with their furniture, with demonstrations showing repeated ‘sitting’ on sofas – this kind of thing is great for inspiring customer confidence.

Added value is so important nowadays.  If your margin allows, think about what you can give your customer that will keep them coming back.  The notepads, the pens, the jute bags.   Product marketing has dropped a bit out of fashion nowadays with so much focus online, but actually that makes it all the more special.  Kind of like when you get a hand-written letter instead of an email.