The rise and fall of the retail behemoths
There was a time when small retailers seemed to be under threat from all sides. On one hand was the inexorable march of the internet, and on the other was the consumers’ seeming preference for big box, one-stop, edge-of-town hypermarkets.
But somewhere along the line, something changed. Consumer preference shifted, and people began to prefer buying groceries from multiple small shops rather than loading the car up to the gunnels with a monthly shop.
Holes in the high street
With so many people shopping at outlets instead of downtown, as well as the inescapable effects of the recession, holes in the high street started to appear. Long-standing local businesses such as video rental shops – as well as other casualties of technological progress – began to vacate the high street, and many local shopping areas were left with only a number of storefront gaps left behind.
Nature abhors a vacuum, however – and with the economic recovery a new kind of business was born to plug those gaps, as well as keep things interesting for the consumer: the pop-up shop.
The effect has been interesting. Big players now run convenience size stores in local neighbourhood shopping zone, co-existing with established local businesses and shorter term pop-up business.
All of which adds up to an interesting time for local retail. And makes now a very good time indeed to be promoting your local business.
Small business promotion websites
If you own a small specialist local business, have a look into the possibility of joining forces with other small business to promote your local retail area. One example where local retailers have done exactly that is Edinburgh, whose Love From Indie Street is described as a ‘virtual high street’ where you can browse stores, buy vouchers and generally get acquainted with the city’s impressive independent retail scene.
There’s nothing quite like a local retail scene – especially if you are looking for something a little bit different – with a little bit of quirk and character. And people value the ‘people side’ of things too. A recent survey shows that upwards of 60% of the UK’s shoppers have long-standing relationships with their local shops – with the average length of the relationship being ten years. This means that any new custom your promotion elicits could well be the start of something mutually beneficial, long-standing and good for business.
Other examples of local retail scenes getting together to promote their offer include Independent Liverpool – who have a nice looking website and also offer a membership card offering discounts at around 100 local shops. What’s not to like?
Strategies for promoting your small retail business
Strength in numbers. If you can find other small businesses in your area who would like to pool resources to produce promotional materials and events (on- or offline) this could provide you with a whole new audience.
Specialization. There are shops in all parts of the country that are famed for being the ‘go-to’ specialist. There are shops specialising in everything from local pies to artisan pasta to cinema books and antique clothes. If you’re a specialist, it’ important to make sure you shout about it.
Online promotion. Have a look at how other businesses use social media – and use the best examples to help shape your own social media presence. Another good reason to watch how other businesses use social media is that you may be able to avoid making any of their mistakes – such as having unclear graphics, not responding to customers, or leaving social media accounts to gather dust, with no postings on them.
If you’re a small retailer, it definitely pays to think big when promoting your business. So even if you’re just starting out, keep up to date with everything that’s going on in the world of specialist retail – and don’t be ashamed of having loads of ambition as well as big hopes for your business.
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