How can independent retailers mitigate the effect of declining high street footfall and spending this Christmas?

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!

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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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