Is there hope for the small independent retailer? #indieretail

At a time when consumers are increasingly picky about where they shop, when online competition is fierce and the market is awash with low-cost providers, independent retailers could be forgiven for thinking their days are numbered. However I’d suggest they are wrong… Consumers have cash to spend but don’t want to waste it. They want to know that when they spend that they have spent wisely. 

Consumers welcome advice, support and guidance when shopping

The vast majority of consumers welcome advice, support, guidance and expert input when shopping and especially if they are buying unfamiliar items that perhaps aren’t part of their everyday essentials / boring basics!

With that in mind, who better to turn to than a local, friendly, independent store? A person whose business is part of the fabric of the local community, not a faceless chain-store, supermarket, or online giant, but someone who the customer can build a trust-based relationship with.

The future can be very bright for retailers who offer excellent service and high quality product

I believe that the future can be very bright for retailers whose service proposition and offering centres on a high quality product backed up with expert advice and support for customers – these differentiators will be the key to attracting new potential customers, converting them into spending customers, securing their loyalty and benefiting from their recommendation of your shop to those in their social circles.

The Independent Retail sector is growing in importance… 

And it’s not just my opinion… survey after survey are producing results that prove consumers are seeking a better experience, more variety and that they welcome increased numbers of independent retailers in the high street. Stats from BIRA (British Independent Retailers Association) show consumers have turned their back on clone towns and that they are voting with their feet (and wallets). In 2012 UK retail vacancy rates remained relatively stable yet there was a net loss of chain-store occupied retail units. The answer to this conundrum? A net gain in the total number of store-based independent retailers and a positive change in the national average retail mix, from c. 66% of all units being independent to 69% independent last year. A trend I believe will continue.

How to stand out from the crowd – use the 10-steps to retail success! 

However, to be successful it’s critical to offer something different and to stand out from the crowd. But this is woolly marketing speak and difficult to break down. To tackle this I developed the 10-steps to retail success methodology. This enables independent retailers of any size and any maturity to create their own, unique action plan to identify areas where they have gaps to ensure that the customer experience, from point of contact and thereafter, is excellent and will underpin long-term loyalty.

The 10-steps are (each is a link to a dedicated blog about the step):

  1. Defining your Goal and Mission
  2. Deciding your Positioning
  3. Identifying your Ideal Customer
  4. Creating your Range Plan
  5. Implementing your Pricing and promotional policy
  6. Developing your Channel & Location strategy
  7. Designing your Customer Engagement processes
  8. Determining your Sourcing & Supply chain model
  9. Planning & Controlling your business
  10. Setting up an effective Back office

Step 3 is pivotal to everything you do – identifying your ideal customer.

In business we can ALL be guilty of trying to sell to everyone. However, it’s been proven that those who are crystal clear about WHO their ideal customer is have far greater success. My advice to retailers hoping to raise their game (and sales) in 2014 is to take time out to define their ideal customer and then focus ALL commercial decisions with that individual at the heart… e.g. “Would my customer buy this product?” and “What promotions would my ideal customer respond to?” – When you develop your range, pricing, promotional approach, routes to market and overall marketing / customer engagement approach around an ideal customer it works because it resonates with exactly the kind of people you know will be loyal, profitable customers. Try it. It’s so simple, yet so effective!

I wish you a successful 2014!

To learn more about the 10-steps to retail success, and how your ideal customer is pivotal to your business success, take a look at my book “The Retail Champion – 10-steps to retail success” or sign up for 52 FREE weekly retail tips to help you to BE a retail champion by next year –


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
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