It’s the end of September, and although the sun is still shining most switched-on retailers will already be thinking about the most important trading period of the year – Christmas.
In recent years the high street has been hit hard at Christmas time, suffering declining footfall, heavy competition from online and out of town retail parks, not to mention big names launching end-of-season sales BEFORE Boxing Day. Last year saw Black Friday really gain traction with consumers, pulling forward much of the spending that historically was held back until a few days before Xmas, so the sales pattern, and the competition for share of wallet, is changing.
With this in mind, I felt it was essential to consider some of the strategies that smaller, independent retailers can adopt in efforts to mitigate the erosion of high street spending. Here are my recommendations.
Collaboration between independent retailers
Collaborate with other local small retailers and create an occasion – an event – anything that offers customers more than JUST an opportunity to shop. Get in early (ideally ahead of Black Friday…) and make it FUN (it is, after all, the festive season!)
Ideas could include:
- festive fashion shows with local clothing retailers showcasing their winter ranges, party-wear and Christmassy accessories!
- food fayres with local foodies (including restaurants and bars too) showcasing their seasonal treats, allowing potential customers to sample their wares, and offering things like Christmas ordering options to ensure people get their favourite tastes on the table in time
- A Christmas party – all family-friendly retailers could work together to create a fun party atmosphere where entertainers distract and amuse the children whilst parents and grandparents can shop for gifts.
- And last but not least, getting involved in indiechristmas.co.uk and running a shopping challenge to get more people visiting local, independent retailers!
Making the most of click and collect
Offer click and collect… if you have ecommerce and a store then you have everything you need for click and collect, which has grown tremendously at Christmas as shoppers feel more secure if they can collect merchandise rather than depend on postal or courier delivery services. Of course if you don’t have ecommerce you can still offer some comfort to customers that a trip to your outlet won’t be wasted – even something as simple as a “ring and reserve” will mean stressed-out shoppers feel safe in the knowledge that when they come to your shop they will not leave empty handed!
Ensuring opening hours are aligned to peak periods of footfall
Ensure you are open for any late-night events and on weekends. If your area tends to have a co-ordinated late-night shopping event make sure you are part of it, and, if chain-stores around you open longer hours / Sundays then you really need to be open as well. Much as it can be a struggle to extend hours, if you don’t then those who do will pick up what little footfall and spending there is!
Stand out from the crowd
Make your store stand out! Nothing entices passing shoppers more than fabulous window displays so make your window SHOUT to them to come in! Once through the door ensure that the store is inviting, well stocked with key items, point of sale is clearly displayed, and you have adequate staffing to provide a quick and efficient service.
Make shopping fun again!
There’s no doubt Christmas has become a more challenging time of year for the high street, but there’s no reason why you can’t improve your chances of turning passers-by into happy customers if you focus on giving them a great experience that makes shopping more fun and less of a chore!
Here’s to a successful festive season!