Modern Retail

How to Grow Your Independent Retail Store

What does the word “growth” actually mean when it comes to your independent retail store? Simply put, it’s a pattern of consistent increases in business revenue over time. If your numbers are going up, technically speaking, your retail business is experiencing growth. This can happen in response to a marketing campaign or special event, or from a more strategic and ongoing way — like increasing the number of products sold or increasing market share. 

But the fact of the matter remains that growth isn’t a given for any retail business. In fact, according to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, only 47% of new retail businesses remain in business following their first four years. Those who are successful know how to balance a solid operational structure with new initiatives, all while strategically growing the business over time. 

And contrary to popular belief, growing your business doesn’t always mean you’re physically expanding your presence. While that might often be the case, there are also other factors that independent retailers can focus on that will help you facilitate growth — and that long-term staying power. 

Increase market share for existing products

If increasing your market share sounds kind of intimidating, it shouldn’t be. It’s really quite simple. You already have profitable products and relationships of some kind with your current customers. Increasing your market share is about nurturing those relationships and creating new ones while turning a profit. 

You have a great selection of merchandise, so now is the time to expand that market share for the successful items you sell. The best way to figure out what steps you should take is to start with market and audience research, finding out the preferences or products that fulfil the following criteria:

● Customers want it 

● It doesn’t yet exist within your industry 

● It does currently exist in your industry but you can make it uniquely yours 

Once that’s established, now is the time to fill a gap your competitors’ products currently don’t satisfy and optimise your product in comparison. It takes being innovative — look at Apple and their determination to come up with new ideas that nobody else has thought of — and focusing on customer satisfaction. Optimise your product to fill the gap left by your competitors, and expand your existing market to a new demographic. 

Add a new product or product line 

One surefire way to grow your business is by adding new products and/or services to your current offerings. First, think of any related products or services that you can sell. Are shoppers requesting anything in particular? Is there something they really need, but you aren’t selling yet? 

Some other things to consider include: 

● Offering additional size options for a single product. If you sell speciality sauces, you might add a larger size option for people who want to stock up, or a sample size for customers who want to test the product before purchasing a full-size jar.

● Adding a new variation to an existing product. If you sell black shoes, start offering brown shoes in the same style. 

● Creating a new product line to complement an existing one. Start offering organic cheese to go with the organic crackers you already sell. 

● Creating a new product that fits within an existing line. If you sell scented lotion, you could add a new scent option. 

● Expand to a new vertical. Consider renting out your store space for clubs and events when the store would normally be closed. 

The idea is to come up with an idea that aligns with your existing brand that will set you apart from the competition. Whether that’s a new product line or adding a service that customers ask for, you’re filling a need all while expanding your growth. 

Expand to other locations

A common growth strategy for many retailers is to open up an additional location, which allows you to widen your brand presence offline and reach new customers. In order to do this successfully, you have to balance your local strategy and the standardised components of your business.

For the former, expanding to new locations doesn’t mean creating a carbon copy of your original store. A lot of branding will remain the same, but you also want to make sure that each location is unique and has local flavour. This allows you to connect with the local shoppers and make a connection. Research each location and demographics, and craft clever outreach initiatives to fit each market.

For the latter, it’s critical that your core procedures, policies and technologies are standardised across all your locations. According to Robert Lerose for Bank of America’s Small Business Community, “Putting some standard operating procedures in place can result in a consistent, streamlined organisation that delivers the same efficient response at each location.” This means the same training manuals, the same operating procedures and the use of the same software and hardware. 

Branch out into other sales channels

If you’re not ready to take the leap into opening up another store, consider growing your business by branching out into other sales channels. 

Online Stores: If you already have a website — and every retailer should — set up an online store so you can reach a wider audience and grow your customer base. It worked for Bundle Boutique, a company that was selling maternity and children’s clothes. Within just 72 hours of launching their ecommerce store, they received 46 orders — 80% of which were from new customers. 

Online Marketplaces: Amazon, eBay, Etsy — the options for retailers to expand their reach is infinite thanks to the Internet. By allowing you to tap into the audiences of the sites, you can potentially increase visibility and sales. These sites already have massive databases of customers who search for products and shop with them regularly, so it’s a great way to expand your reach.

Go Mobile: According to Moz, there are about seven billion unique local searches on Google every month, and almost 60% of searches happen on mobile devices. More and more shoppers are making purchases on the go, which means expanding to the mobile selling realm gives you the ability to keep up. Also consider offering mobile checkout, as global mobile payment transactions are estimated to be more than £3.5 trillion by 2023. 

Partner with other businesses

Partnering with a company in the market you want to target is a great way to leverage their assets and expand your reach. The strategy works because the business you team up with already has the assets and resources required to win the market that you’re targeting. 

Look to IKEA for a great example. The furniture and appliance giant is known for the fact that their products don’t come assembled, as many jokes and memes will remind you. Instead of trying to reinvent that assembly wheel, they purchased TaskRabbit “to make your everyday life at home easier by connecting you with flexible and affordable ways to get your to-dos done.” 

Months after the acquisition, IKEA began offering furniture assembly service in the US care of TaskRabbit. Instead of setting up the logistics and infrastructure required to offer furniture assembly services, IKEA purchased a company that already had services figured out. The result? IKEA was able to efficiently roll out furniture services that weren’t currently being offered — but that were in demand. 

When it comes to your business, think about who you could have a mutually beneficial relationship with and go from there. If you sell women’s clothes and want to expand into men’s, instead of developing new items from scratch, consider acquiring or partnering with an existing male fashion business who already has it figured out. 

Ready to grow your retail business?

At the end of the day, the most important thing you can do to grow your independent retail business is to give people a reason to come to your store. Offer unmatched customer service, a variety of sought-after products, a unique spin that draws people in and more than just a purchase — offer them a complete experience. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to increased sales and an increased bottom line.

Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Content Marketing Manager. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and run more profitable stores. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores.

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