Keep the momentum after Small Business Saturday
Posted on 4 Dec 2013
Although the UK's economy is showing signs of recovery, growing by 1.1% during the first six months of this year, smaller retailers are feeling the strain as many people choose to shop away from the high street.
To combat this, a new initiative is launching on Saturday 7th December to encourage people to shop locally at independent stores.
Nearly half of small business owners think Small Business Saturday (SBS) is a positive move for the UK, but are anxious the public will not buck the supermarket trend, according to a survey by XLN Business Services.
47% said the introduction of SBS was a great idea, but were worried the public will not change their habits. Furthermore, 42% said it was a fantastic opportunity to put small businesses on the map and boost sales.
Christian Nellemann, CEO and founder of XLN Business Services commented: "Far too frequently, the hard work of small businesses does not get the attention it deserves. This is why Small Business Saturday is such a brilliant idea. If I had my way I would make every Saturday a Small Business Saturday."
"We all like the diversity of a vibrant high street; the butcher, the baker, the fishmonger and so on, rather than the big supermarkets, but we can't have that unless we're willing to support it. Larger companies are not always the cheapest option and local businesses provide a personal touch that larger companies just can't provide. We should support them every day of the week".
Whilst Small Business Saturday will boost the high street, one day can't be considered a long term answer. The key to success after the initiative is about recognising changing shopping habits and responding to them. Shingo Murakami, MD, Rakuten's Play.com explores how retailers can keep the momentum going long after Small Business Saturday has ended.
Keep up with your customers
It cannot be ignored that consumers are shopping online and using their mobile in store to find the best deal. In fact, the latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index highlighted that spend online in the run up to Christmas will top £10bn for the first time. There is clearly a need for the high street to work in tandem with online if small businesses are to compete with big players.
However, you don't need to know how to build a website to sell online. Marketplaces are used by many independent retailers as they provide the technical infrastructure needed so that logistics, such as payment systems and delivery, are taken care of.
It's understandable that many small businesses are afraid of losing their local brand identity by going online. E-commerce has long been associated with the best price, rather than the best customer experience and independent retailers often don't want to become part of this vending machine model.
Fortunately there are ways for retailers to extend their reach online without becoming ‘faceless' by replicating the fantastic experience that customers receive in-store on the web. An easy way to do this is to share relevant, valuable content in an email newsletter. E-newsletters help to drive traffic to the online store, but can also encourage customers to visit your physical store. You could use an e-newsletter to invite shoppers to events in-store such as a Christmas shopping night or an evening talk with a local company whose product you sell.
The upper hand on big brands
It's obviously important to bring customers through the door on Small Business Saturday but to win customers over for the long term retailers must do more. One of the great ways local shops can triumph over big brands is by providing specialist knowledge and personalised customer service. You can understand individual customers' product preferences and then make tailored recommendations. You will then be able to offer special deals for the local community based on real relationships. Furthermore, by sharing local knowledge, for example on where your products are made, you offer a service which is very hard for a big brand to echo.
There is strength in numbers and you could work with other local stores to celebrate your whole high street community. You could offer a joint loyalty scheme or build an initiative to share knowledge about other local stores to help drive neighbours' sales. This approach has worked well in Brixton where local stores teamed up to launch the Brixton Pound (B£), a currency initiative that helps to keep spending within the local community. It was launched in 2009 and around 200 businesses are currently accepting the currency which drives loyalty amongst businesses in the area.
Make use of the support available
Independent retailers need to work harder than ever to be successful today. Fortunately, initiatives like Small Business Saturday are there to provide support to growing retailers.
Joining a trade association or business support organisation like ActSmart gives you access to valuable sales tools, group buying power, a sense of community, and support for your specialist business when you need it most.
ActSmart is represented in a number of different organisations, all of whom are working for the interests of speciality retailing
ActSmart currently hold the Chair position of the Independent Retailers Confederation (IRC) representing over 100,000 independent retailers throughout the UK.
The IRC operates the secretariat of the All Party Parliamentary Small Shops Group through which ActSmart is a regular contributor with direct access to Government Ministers.
ActSmart also interacts with Government representing speciality retail on the Department of Business Innovation and Skills Retail Policy Forum.