January has brought some bad news for the big boys of the retail world… Retail giants including Tesco, Morrisons and Marks & Spencer reported a fall in sales over the crucial Christmas trading period – news that should encourage independent small businesses across the UK to up the ante and focus harder on how they can win over the consumer.
Major retail chains reported poor performance during Christmas peak trading period
While Tesco is blaming “further weakness” in the UK grocery market for a 2.4 per cent decline in sales in the six weeks up to January 4th, Morrisons reported a shock 5.6 per cent fall over the festive period. Meanwhile, M&S suffered its third Christmas of declining clothes sales – something chief executive Marc Bolland blamed on unseasonably warm weather in October.
Time for the Independent Retail community to lead a revolution!
In other words, the time is ripe for a retail revolution, and independents should be leading the way! Shoppers are voting with their feet, and it’s time independent businesses made sure they started walking through their doors.
It’s no secret that in the past three decades, the rise of out-of-town shopping centres and enormous everything-under-one-roof has struck a massive blow to the Great British High Street. The past five years in particular has had a devastating impact on the number of small businesses forced to close as a result of the recession. According to The Telegraph, a shocking 27,000 small businesses closed in 2009 alone, and many continue to struggle.
But, with the economy improving and constant reports of green shoots, now is time for independent businesses to stand up and be counted, and cite the differences that make them a better, preferable option to their big-name competitors.
The local high street should be the hub of every community. People shouldn’t want to get in the car to visit large chain retailers, they should relish the opportunity to invest in and support their own peers – everything from the local pub and coffee shop to the green grocer, butcher, baker, boutique and beauty salon.
The beauty of being a small, independent business is that the world is your oyster. Unlike the manager of the nearest megastore or hypermarket, managers and their staff can take the time to get to know their customers, greet them by name, know their preferences and their passions; in short, offer the kind of excellent one-to-one customer experience that the big boys can’t hope to achieve.
Strong customer relationships inspire loyalty and recommendations
Such customer relationships inspire loyalty and recommendations – and going the extra mile to meet a customer’s needs, be it introducing them to a fabulous new cheese ahead of tonight’s dinner party, speaking to the chef to ensure that dietary needs are accommodated, or ordering that precise shade of nail varnish that a customer has been hankering for at her last three manicures, will make you stand head and shoulders above your competitors, however big and shiny their building is!
Quality products, attention to detail and outstanding customer service are the three keys to success – never underestimate them, and independents across the country should make 2014 the year that they raise their game. Never mind what sales figures the retail giants record this year, SMEs should simply focus on making sure theirs are going in the right direction!
This blog was supplied by @AnnectoUK who are one of the sponsors of the Support for Independent Retail campaign. For more information about Annecto visit http://www.annectouk.co.uk/