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How to make it as an Independent Retailer
Independent retailers are fighting back against the large chains and superstores, as consumers are beginning to crave the more personal shopping experience that were once familiar in times gone by.
© Odua Images / Adobe Stock
Having said this, it's still not easy starting your own business, especially when competing against the retail giants, but it can be worthwhile if you get it off the ground. Read on for some useful tips on how to make it as an independent retailer...
Key traffic drivers for an independent store are locality and convenience. When choosing the location, balance the buoyancy of the local market with the need for cost-effectiveness. For example, if the premises are cheap because they're down a side-street, off the beaten track, you may not attract much organic traffic. This means you'll have to advertise more - which may counter the money you've saved in getting cheaper premises.
If you've chosen the right location, you won't need as big a marketing budget, but you'll still have to advertise. Independent retailers must work much harder to achieve brand recognition over the larger chain stores, as they don't have premises on every high street in the UK.
The growth in social media has made it easier for small retailers to advertise on a relatively low budget. It's worth looking for free tools and platforms to help with your promotional plans. Encourage customers to review your shop on consumer review sites and get them to share their experiences on Facebook and other social media channels.
As a small retailer, it can be hard to compete with the chain stores on prices, so try to focus on high-quality goods, great customer service and adding value in other ways. For example, try using a mobile point of sale device, so you can take service to your customers anywhere on the shop floor. Your tablet or dedicated wireless device can be used as a mobile cash register, so your staff can have a mobile electronic point of sale on the shop floor, in the midst of the customers. This speeds up the checkout process and provides a better service for customers.
Volume of stock
Don't get carried away when ordering stock, as you'll end up wasting money on a host of goods that aren't going to sell. Test a limited run of new products before ordering in bulk. However much you like them, you need to make sure your customers do too. If you have more than one store, you need software that will supply you with a single view of your stock at all branches. Check online for options - there are plenty of sales solutions out there to streamline your supply chain, so you can view it all on-screen, at a glance.
Foster customer loyalty
Make sure your customers enjoy their experience so they'll want to come back. Offering loyal customers an incentive isn't something that's reserved for the larger stores. Launch your own customer rewards scheme, as it's cheaper to retain your existing customers than it is to advertise to attract new ones. To make it convenient for shoppers, try launching your own loyalty app, enabling customers to collect points via their smartphone each time they shop with you.
Keep an eye on cash flow
One of the major reasons independent retailers fail is because they don't manage their cash flow effectively. Keep an eye on your money and make sure you always have a grasp of your income and expenditure. Do anything you can to keep track of your finances, such as introducing electronic invoicing, or investing in card payment machines, to speed up your cash flow.
Even though money might be tight, especially at first, try not to leave yourself with nothing in reserve. Having a little money put by for when times are hard could mean your survival if there's a downturn in your fortunes.
Bear in mind that the current economic climate is tough and the average consumer’s confidence is low, so slow retail growth is to be expected at first. Make sure you anticipate this and manage your budget accordingly.
Give yourself a better chance of survival by making your premises as welcoming and pleasant as possible. While your retail store may be small, it can still be attractively-furnished, so that shoppers enjoy the experience of walking through the door and browsing your products.
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