On Being a Better (Independent) Retailer

On Being a Better (Independent) Retailer
Any shopper passing a store has to be given a reason to enter it. John Ryan

How do you turn your store into a magnet for customers? Retail journalist John Ryan sets out the five unbreakable rules.

There’s a reason why the headline to this piece contains a word that is in parentheses – everything that follows could equally apply to a non-independent retailer found on all high streets everywhere. The point is that some things are inviolable.

These are the relatively straightforward elements that retail businesses need to observe if turnover is to be improved, loyalty, of some description, is to be a reality and retailers can feel they’ve made a difference… here they are.

1 THE TASTER

Any shopper passing a store has to be given a reason to enter it and there is only one fleeting moment to provide that reason – the window.

Many independent retailers follow a ‘more is more’ line of thinking and put lots and lots of product behind the glass. It doesn’t work.

Shoppers need you to do the work and make things easier for them. This means doing the editing for the shopper, and telling a story via your street-facing display that shows an intelligence at work and which does not overwhelm thanks to volume.

2 THE OFFER

Once they’re though the doors, your job is to fulfil the promise outlined in the window.

How merchandise is laid out is the next thing that is likely to determine whether that initial favourable impression will translate into browsing behaviour.

Unless you’re discounting, displays need to be pared down. Be prepared not to have everything on show all the time and when necessary rotate stock so that a perception of difference is maintained.

This will amount to giving the shopper a reason to return and the same approach should be applied to the windows.

Colour-blocking, theming, seasonality – any of these might be adopted when making a store appealing, but retailers, independent or otherwise, need to be aware of the requirement to do something. Piling high and selling inexpensively really isn’t an option.

3 THE DEAL

For any demographic, once a shopper is considering something that is in a store, the final piece in the jigsaw is closing the deal.

An item probably won’t sell itself but the balancing act between offering service and pestering the shopper is a fine one and sales associates need to avoid the obvious trap of being over- attentive.

That said, stock does not sell itself and the best retailers all negotiate this tricky path.

4 THE FIRST CUT

The other element that independent retailers tend to ignore is to cut the price of a product when it doesn’t work.

At the beginning of any selling period a retailer will know exactly how many items will be sold. The only unknown is the price at which products will be sold.

The easy-to-say and hard-to-practice mantra therefore is always that the first cut should be the deepest. Piecemeal markdowns are the road to the receiver – hit things hard and what might seem a tough decision will be made easier.

5 AND THAT’S NOT ALL …

There are, of course, other things to be considered. Any retailer of any size should be a multi-channel operation these days.

The point is that whether you’re selling online or in a physical shop, the same rules apply. Be consistent between the various methods of selling and distribution. A brand is only as powerful as its components and if one of these fails to deliver then an entire enterprise may be tarnished.

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