Support your high street heroes on Independents’ Day #retailindieday by @retail_indieday for #IndieRetail

On this 4th of July, Skillsmart Retail and the National Skills Academy for Retail have teamed up with independent retailers and trade associations across the country to do just that. Today is Independents’ Day 2012, a chance to support Britain’s real-life high street heroes and for all of us to answer a nationwide SOS – to help Save Our Shops.

The retail landscape

When it comes to adversity, our high streets have had more than their fair share of late. Even before the wettest June on record swamped our streets, many shops have struggled to stay open with nearly 24,000 units, almost 14% of shop units in the UK, currently vacant in UK town centres. Yet a report published in March shows that independent retailers may hold the key to saving the situation: the number of independents grew by 2.4% last year, with more than 15,000 opening – three times more than chain stores.

Why we love shopping local

Recent research conducted by the National Skills Academy for Retail sheds some light on exactly why this might be. It seems shoppers do want to support their community: 42% choose to shop locally to boost businesses in their area and 38% feel they are keeping local people in work. Perhaps most revealingly, 51% of shoppers believe they receive a higher level of customer service in independents, while 43% of people cite a ‘unique service’.

The kind of unique service on offer was brought home to me last week when, as usual, I was buying groceries at my local independent store after work. I’d forgotten my purse and was trying to get my other half to drop in and pay when one of the employees asked me if there was something wrong. I explained the situation and he insisted I borrowed ten pounds off him to pay. “You can pay me back later,” he said with a smile. The shop got its sale and I left humbled by the generosity of the man. Needless to say, I popped in the following day to settle my debts and will continue to show my support regardless of the offers the supermarkets throw my way.

Time to celebrate

There is a crucial point here: independents offer something outside the normal shopping experience that we have perhaps grown used to. Independents’ Day provides a focus point and chance to celebrate the stores that help make our villages, towns and cities so special; it is about their value to the wider economy, the local community and, as I found out last week, each customer. It is a chance to show our support for diversity on the high streets and recognise the myriad skills required to run a successful business of any size, whether green grocer, butcher, off-licence, florist or fashion boutique.

Skills are vital

As head of the National Skills Academy for Retail, I know how important skills are to every single retail business and today is also about encouraging independent retailers to invest in skills and training to ensure they continue their strong presence on the high street. As ever-increasing numbers of larger retailers invest in training their staff, the 2009 National Employer Skills Survey found that only 4% of small, independent retail businesses currently employ an Apprentice. Ensuring these businesses have the right skills is just as vital to their future success as footfall through the door.

Show your support

I am delighted that right now retailers across the UK, from Aberdeen to Penzance, will be coming together to support the campaign and take part in the wide range of activities both in-store and on the street, from special discounts to barbecues and street parties.

Every region in the UK has something happening and in the year of the Diamond Jubilee and Olympic Games, community spirit remains strong. Retailers can still download the posters and put them in their shop windows, but today is really about us – the shoppers. Instead of going to a usual big brand store today, I call on everyone to get behind our high street heroes and buy at least one item in an independent shop.

In every story, heroes can make a difference but they need the help of the people. Check out our full schedule of events and show your support for our high streets today. Happy Independents’ Day 2012!

A full schedule of activities is available at www.retailindieday.com – you can also follow the campaign on Twitter @Retail_IndieDay and facebook.com/independentsday

Author – Jane Rexworthy – Head of the National Skills Academy for Retail

Jane is Director of Skills Solutions & Head of National Skills Academy for Retail. She has responsibility for the development of the National Skills Academy for Retail and promoting products and services directly to employers and through the network of skills shops. Jane project managed the development of the National Skills Academy for Retail business plan and secured £5million of government funding, which was matched with over £5million employer contribution.

Jane has eight years’ experience of working at a strategic level within the retail skills arena. In her current role she is responsible for the risk management, design, delivery, quality assurance and evaluation of the National Skills Academy for Retail, recruiting and managing the team, overseeing the development of the network of retail skills shop members and the development and delivery of industry training products. Since joining Skillsmart Retail in 2002, Jane has had responsibility for the development of key stakeholder forums in England. She developed regional and national action plans to support the retail sector skills agreement, as required by the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) (now replaced by UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES)).

Before 2002 Jane worked in the private sector within blue chip retail companies in a variety of roles from store operations and management to area training and HR, auditing and developing company in-house training programmes. Jane also has experience as a training consultant and has additional qualifications in teaching holistic therapies.

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About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
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6 Responses to Support your high street heroes on Independents’ Day #retailindieday by @retail_indieday for #IndieRetail

  1. John says:

    Interesting article. The survey findings showing 15,000 net increase in retailers is in line with the ONS data showing retail sales values up 3.3% and volumes up 2.4 % on last year. Also thought I’d share some data on a high street survey I recently did with a local independent retailer in a Derbyshire market town:
    – 72% people happier buying from local independent retailers rather than supermarkets/major high street chains
    – 43% people actually shop at independent retailers more than supermarkets/major high street chains
    – 52% people cite more shops/choice as the main reason they don’t support local independent retail more
    – 93% people believe local independents care more about customers and customer satisfaction
    – 90% people believe local independent retailers are more important for the local community
    – 5% of the public had heard about July being the month for Independent Retail

    There’s clearly overwhelming support for local independent retail. But wouldn’t July be so much better if the public at large could be more engaged with what’s going on? People want to do the right thing – shouldn’t there be more done to help them feel good?

  2. Clare Rayner says:

    Hi John
    How valid are your findings statistically? What was the sample size? What was the demographic mix? Over what period was data captured and over what catchment area? I would respectfully suggest that whilst interesting you can’t possibly assume that this limited research is representative and at best it’s an interesting insight to a single area, at worst it could be hugely misleading if read out of context by someone not terribly familiar with data capture, research methods and survey analysis,

    Your single high street survey with a local independent retailer in a Derbyshire market town can not be assumed to be adequate data from which to form an opinion about the total market. The fact is that those figures will vary wildly town to town…

    Independent Retailer Month is not a consumer campaign – it’s a platform from which retailers and those who serve consumers can engage consumers. If 5% of consumers know then that’s the work of the retailers. The month is there for the retailers to engage more and more consumers so that over time the message gets through. There’s not a quick fix, it takes sustained activity over a period of time to make a difference, but, with many acting toward a common aim it can be done. Retailers don’t need spoon feeding, they don’t need charity, they just need a bit of a buzz and can do the rest themselves! The campaign gives them that opportunity – to create the excitement and activity at a local level to capture the consumers’ imaginations. Only they know the local community needs and wants. Campaigns can drive as much footfall as you want at a town, but if the businesses don’t present the right offer, the right products and the right prices people still won’t engage – so it’s symbiotic – we create the opportunity and it’s up to the retailers to grasp it.

    • John says:

      Easy Clare! I didn’t claim the survey to be representative of anything other than what it is – a survey in a market town. Nothing was said about it being anything more than that. And since you ask: 134 people, three different locations, one day. No statistical validity stated or claimed. All I was doing was help a customer of ours create some of your “buzz” in the form of data and editorial for a press release in their local paper. And we did it to show the rest of our customers – small Independent IT Retailers – just what is possible and how much they are appreciated. We all violently agree everyone wants Indie. The issue is helping them. Yes, the 5% response is what it is because the various “July” campaigns are targeted at the business. But there’s a bigger play here: about hooking into the overwhelming positive sentiment the public have for Independents. If both sides of the equation can be “excited” won’t the result be bigger and better for everyone?

      • Clare Rayner says:

        Hi John
        I am just concerned that the scan reader may assume all those stats to be gospel, I know I skim read and at first I didn’t read the preamble, I homed in on the bullets. Someone doing that could potentially make assumptions. I am sure that I am not alone, so I wanted to just moderate the very interesting stats with a sense-check.

        Agree there do need to be consumer facing activities, but that should be down to the local communities, retailers, town centre managers etc – they know the local people better than a central campaign run by any organisation can, therefore they are the ones who know precisely how to reconnect with the local shopper and start to rebuild the shop-local, shop-indie habit.

      • John says:

        Thanks for the message Clare. Agree about the local lead issue – its clearly the only way to go. Maybe I’ve missed this so apologies up front if so, but wouldn’t that itself be further encouraged by wider higher level media coverage before, during and after July?

  3. Pingback: A blog-a-day for #IndieRetail | Clare Rayner: The Retail Champion

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