Tips for independent furniture retailers for 2014 by @FreedomSofas #IndieRetail

Having run a high street furniture retail store in the past, and now launching the UK’s first sofa manufacturer dedicated to independent retailers, I am often asked for my thoughts on the future of the high street.  I feel that independent retailers have the potential to offer customers so many benefits over and above multiples.  So, using my 25 years of experience in the sector, I have put together my top pieces of advice to help high street furniture retailers to thrive during 2014.

Keep focused – be clear on your customer

I have seen retailers which try to be all things to all people.  I think the key to success lies in knowing your brand and your target market and ensuring a focused and consistent message through all contact you have with customers.  Trying to please everyone can have the opposite effect.

Engage with your customers

Customers enjoy shopping at independent furniture stores as they like to feel they are supporting their local community and they can get friendly advice from a member of staff who really knows their stuff.  Make sure your staff take the time to engage with customers and can make helpful suggestions to suit their needs.   It is also useful to get customer feedback to help you make improvements if required.

Keep your pricing fair – for you and your customers

This means fair for you as well as your customers!  While consumer spending has dropped, people are still willing to pay for a high quality product.  Make sure your customers are aware of the added value benefits your products offer.  For example, are they British made?  Do they come with a 10 year limited warranty?  Are they available on a fast lead time?

Sell a lifestyle, not a piece of furniture

Buying a piece of furniture is an emotional decision as well as a practical one.  Make sure the layout and styling of your store helps to convey the right emotion.  Your customers need to be able to imagine your products in their home, so make that as easy as possible.  It may sound obvious, but I have seen many shops with half-finished displays or piles of packaging waiting to be thrown out.  First impressions really do count, so make sure it is a good one.

Differentiate – stand out from the crowd

Work out the benefits that your store has over any others and then shout about them.  Perhaps you are the only stockist in your area for a certain range, or you have specialist knowledge you can share with customers.  Knowing what makes you different can help you maintain a strong profit margin.

Wishing you all the best for 2014!

About the author

This blog was written by Darren Hargreaves, managing director of Freedom Sofas.  Freedom Sofas has been launched specifically with the needs of independent furniture retailers at heart.  It will offer exclusive products, meaning that high street retailers no longer need to worry about margins being squeezed by multiples.

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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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