In the wake of lockdown easing, attention now falls on local businesses as they attempt to get back to some sense of normality post-lockdown. That’s why, this year, Independent Retailer Month is more important than ever before. The campaign, that runs all throughout July, aims to highlight the importance that local retailers play in the communities they serve and their contribution to the community’s overall economy.
James Burke, a business growth specialist from ActionCOACH, has supported a number of local retailers, most of them needing vital guidance to keep the momentum going throughout lockdown. Now things are slowly returning to normal, it’s crucial that people help their local community to get back up and running by buying local where they can. For independent retailers, however, it’s a whole different business landscape than three months ago.
“It’s an extremely difficult for everyone right now, especially those smaller businesses that depend mainly on local support,” said James. “It’s crucial to adopt a positive mindset, despite any challenges you might be facing. By doing this, you can work critically, effectively and sensibly, ensuring that you exit the situation in a better shape than when you went in. Good morale within your team, as well as with customers, is imperative during this time.”
Here are James’ top tips for local retailers to maximise their potential during this post-lockdown transition period:
1. Know your numbers. Of course, it’s important to understand your profit margins for products and services, but knowing your numbers is about so much more than that. How much does it cost to gain a lead for a potential customer and how many would you normally convert into a paying one? Whether you’re just opening back up for business or welcoming customers adjusting from online purchases to in-person visits to your store again, knowing the numbers in your business is key.
2. Keep in regular contact with your customers. This is paramount. You should have continued to engage with your customers throughout lockdown anyway, but make sure you reach out now to make contact. Share your news, promote any new products, share pictures of your shop/services and interact with your customers. Your social media platforms are the easiest and most effective way of keeping the conversation going – keeping customers in the loop is crucial for retaining them.
3. Invite your customers by ‘appointment only’. This should be obvious by now, but your customers need to know that they will be safe when on your premises. Create a robust appointment system with allocated time slots for your customers. Another great benefit is showing how you value them as a customer, as one-to-one time is vital for building a lasting relationship.
4. Promote ‘shop local’. You can promote the importance of shopping local and supporting the local high street post-lockdown. Incorporate it into your messaging, place stickers in your windows and shout about it on social media. Now’s the time to create a community of abundance and there’s no better way than highlighting just how important that really is. Don’t forget, by shopping local, people don’t need to travel unnecessary distances.
5. Start a referral group. Clubbing together with other local businesses will give you a lot more clout: you can offer each other guidance and support, as well as sharing any ideas for best practice. Having the chance to interact with like-minded business owners promotes a healthy environment – imperative for exiting this period stronger than when you went in.
James added: “As we move towards a ‘new normal’, it’s time for them to start thinking about innovative ways to work with their customers once again. It’s no longer a matter of opening up your high-street shop and expecting people to come in, we’ve got to work hard and cleverly at encouraging them to do so. I’m confident that, as a community that pulls together when it’s needed the most, we can all support one another.”