Make no mistake the future of retail is physical.



As an independent retailer you could be forgiven for thinking the game is up for the physical store. On a global scale we’re constantly bombarded with news and articles about how the retail world is changing. Indeed journalists seem to have their go to sources when they want to back this up. Amazon and Walmart get far more than their fair share of column inches especially as we get more and more of our statistics and data from US skewed sources. But guess what Global retail was worth a massive $22 Trillion dollars in 2016. The giants Amazon and Walmart accounted for 0.45% and 2.3% respectively. So the two giant US based retailers accounted for less than 3% of global retail.


And what might be a little surprising is the fact the physical retailer Walmart had five times the sales of the media darling Amazon. Now there’s no doubt Amazon is incredibly innovative and is not beyond flying the odd kite in an effort to remain at the very front of the consumer’s mind. But here’s the rub, at it’s core Amazon is a physical retailer. It differs from the Walmart’s and Tesco’s of the world in the manner in which it gets products in front of consumers but they do deal in real tangible product and in that regard they are very much physical.


They have brick and mortar fulfillment centres to house physical stock and use physical means of transport. Until Jeff finally announces his guys have perfected the teleportation device of the beam me up Scotty variety they still have many of the same issues of a traditional retailer regardless of size. 


In short Amazon are just another route to market for manufacturers, suppliers and retailers of brands. They do bring many advantages to suppliers and brands and can leverage size and volume to deliver value and convenience to the consumer. But none of their core activities are patentable or not open to being copied. The reason they laud their speed of delivery is in part due to the fact they have to. Unlike a local brick and mortar store a consumer cannot simply just drop in and pick up an item on a whim or in an emergency. So Amazon’s answer is to get it to the consumer ASAP when needed. But in general outside of emergency situations who cannot wait a day or so for that new dress, box of Persil or those bangin’ new headphones. In fact Amazon are rather predictably in our view looking to navigate their way into the physical space for the reasons outlined above. Sometimes it’s just easier to drop into a store or have a place to drop off a return. For the retailer there’s the benefit of offering a replacement product there and then or better again up-selling and offering what Amazon really can’t a true impulse buying opportunity.


So where are we going with all of this? Well it’s to remind SME retailers they they too hold a lot of cards. At it’s core, retail is all about satisfying a consumers need. Getting a physical product out of a warehouse or off a shelf and into the hands of the consumer is what it’s all about. Whether the consumer starts their journey on a website or in a store the goal is the same. How do we get that product from point A to point B otherwise known as the consumers hands. As a retailer with a physical store you already have much of the hard work done. You have the relationships with the suppliers and the consumers. In the case of our target retailers they also have the means of fulfillment in-house. 


You have the ability to give the consumer more confidence than a eCommerce only retailer. That ability comes from having a physical location a consumer can have last resort to. You have the fulfillment centre already on tap and again that’s your physical store. You have local market knowledge and relationships again due to your presence in the community. All that’s left now is to leverage all of the advantages you have and connect them to the power of the web. You could get moving and connect the final piece of the jigsaw with eCommerce capabilities. But yet you haven’t done this. So what’s stopping you? Technology, resources, time, finances? Worried you’ll end up with an increased workload, almost like running another business. 


No longer acceptable excuses. Why? Because we can take on the heavy lifting. Leverage the power of your suppliers, automate all of your eCommerce sales, retain all the consumer and sales data involved. We tick all of those boxes and much more. Get in touch at info@covaworld.com and we can arrange a demo and show you how you can quite literally open up a whole new world of opportunities.


Independent retail is very well placed to become a force in eCommerce. It’s easier for you to become a multi-channel retailer than it is for say the Amazon’s of this world. It’s easier for you to stand out from the crowd and leverage your local loyal customer base than it is for the larger chains. You have a level of exclusivity that the multiples don’t enjoy. Not everyone wants to look or be the same, right? So if you’re in retail you should be in eCommerce. You have 90% of the work done. You know your business, you know your customer, you have your product so why not do what you do when you have a plumbing or car issue. Find somebody to get the job done for you or as in our case with you. Independent retail has diversity, individuality, exclusivity and many other advantages over the larger chains so don’t let insecurity about your level of technical knowledge stop you. Take it from us at www. COVAWORLD.com  cost or technical knowledge is no longer a barrier to entry.

Sources:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/672747/amazons-consolidated-net-revenue-by-segment/

https://www.emarketer.com/Article/Worldwide-Retail-Ecommerce-Sales-Will-Reach-1915-Trillion-This-Year/1014369

https://www.statista.com/statistics/183399/walmarts-net-sales-worldwide-since-2006/

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What have you planned for 2014?

Christmas is well and truly behind us and the blank canvas of 2014 stretches out ahead. Here at Stylefinch central we have big plans for this year but perhaps that can wait for another day.

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I did come across an interesting article this morning which prompted the latest blog. The article in question refers to the latest BDO High Street Sales Tracker data and can be seen here http://www.myfinances.co.uk/cut-your-bills/2014/01/06/retailers-experienced-underwhelming-sales-over-christmas.

In short it shows a fragmented picture of the Christmas shopping season. It says that the medium sized high street retailers saw a drop of 2.2% when compared to 2012. Indeed like for like sales (excluding online sales) dropped by 6.7% in the week ending December 22nd.

The last sentence is where the nuance really is, excluding online sales. We are very firmly of the belief that the high street is going nowhere, at least for the foreseeable future. Why do we think this? Well even with all the hype Worldwide Ecommerce will account for less that 10% of the total retail spend last year. But again the devil is in the detail here, as the winners from this year’s Christmas period will testify. The big winners this year are the likes of Next, John Lewis and House of Fraser. All brick and mortar retailers with a very heavy presence online. Now I know these guys are big, they have deep pockets and can bring resources to bear that the average high street retailer can only dream of, but, and there’s always a but, the playing field is being leveled.

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Many of the tools the big guys are using in their retail strategies are now available to the small independent group or individual. It’s now easier than ever to establish yourself as an omni-channel retailer regardless of size or budget. You no longer need to have an in-debt knowledge of IT or the workings of back end systems. If you can use Facebook we believe you can run and effective on and offline strategy. Indeed the reason for doing this is simply to support the total business. The on and offline Worlds are now becoming one and the same to the consumer and it’s the retailers who grasp this that will survive and thrive in the new environment.

The consumer now expects to be able to interact with their favourite retailers across mobile devices, laptops, desktops and of course in the flesh. Indeed I believe in the flesh is still their preferred choice and all the other options can be utilised to make the physical in store experience more convenient and enjoyable. This trend is not going to slow down, consumers now expect multiple touch points and methods to shop their favourite stores. If you’re not offering them these options they will simply go elsewhere.

I’ve believe and will never stop saying the independent high street retailers enjoy many advantages over their larger competitors. They can differentiate themselves through product range, service and flexibility. Against the online only retailers they can enjoy the huge advantage of being seen as a tangible real world business and can capitalise in their catchment area and beyond using this major plus point.

So as a business whose main reason for coming into existence was to assist in the maintenance and growth of the independent high street we would like to see next year’s figures tell a different story.

Delivering overall growth, that’s the only game in town. It doesn’t matter if the brick and mortar portion is down 6% once the business as a whole is up. Customers are now researching online and buying in store, they’re clicking and collecting (the World’s fastest means of fulfilment), and they’re researching in store and buying on line. It really doesn’t matter how your customer buys once they remain your customer and buy from you.

Technology is not a reason for doing anything. Technology should be an enabler that leads to a beneficial result. It should always come back to people and in this instance the important people are the customers. As I recently said if we take a look back 100 years ago cutting edge tech consisted of the Model T, Oil and Radio. We take all of these for granted today and future generations will view current high tech solutions in the same way. As a retailer you really need to be where your customers are. In the past the footfall was specifically on the high street. Today the footfall is quite likely to be digital so to speak. Are you there?

If not you need to think about getting there. Not for the technology’s sake, but for the sake of your customer and ultimately your business. By all accounts growth is back on the agenda across the UK & Ireland so give some thought to your eCommerce strategy and make sure you get your fair share. Here’s to 2014.

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The future is not yet written.

Hi all, apologies for the short hiatus but we’ve been incredibly busy over the last five weeks. We are lucky enough to be part of the Telefonica/O2 Wayra academy. In short it’s an environment that is summed by their motto & now ours which is “The rules are not yet written”. I took a little liberty with it and amended it for this blog post. The Wayra accelerators are located across 12 countries and they choose the best of young tech start ups and provide them with world class facilities, support and people. It’s from this environment that we are about to take the step into the big bad real world and look to establish and grow our new exciting business. So that’s my excuse for the lack of posts.

Any how on to this month’s post. It concerns a report released to day by ING Bank. You can have a read of the details here

http://www.fashionunited.com/executive/management/fashion-in-2025-plenty-of-fast-fashion-few-independent-retailers-20131511493552

In short it predicts that there will be little or no independent fashion retailers by the year 2025. The reason they give is the rise of fast fashion and the dominance of the larger players across an increasingly globalised market.

We’re not actually Contrarians here at Stylefinch, although it may appear that way sometimes, it’s just that we fear being drawn into self fulfilling prophesies. If we are to accept that independent retail is doomed then perhaps all independents should just close up shop now? Clearly that would be nonsense. Retail is about change. The one constant, as it goes, is change. Nowhere is this more appreciated than in the retail environment. As a retailer you change product, merchandising, pricing, seasonality etc etc. That’s what the business is all about. Ever since the first department stores popped up over a 100 years ago people have been writing off independent retail. But it’s still here. It’s not the same but it’s still here. I don’t know what your area is like but in my home town the local butcher has made a remarkable comeback over the last 5 years. The two busiest food stores in the heart of the town are fruit and veg retailers. People are flocking to them because they trust them.

Trust them! This is an area where the independent can win. It doesn’t matter if it’s the local butcher or the local boutique the chances are the smaller retailer is closer to the customer. The big guys have all the stats and data but the independent’s get to meet the personalities. So if we all agree that the future is not yet written what can we do to write it. And write it in such a way that benefits the independent retailer and by extension the high street, towns, cities and society generally.

We can play the fast fashion and larger retailers at their own game. Use the tools at your disposal. eCommerce is not just a web site if it’s a web site at all. eCommerce opens up the opportunity to interact with your customer 24/7. Get active on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest for example. It’s not rocket science, it’s not as time consuming as you think and in fact it can become enjoyable. Honestly. Best of all it’s free. The added value is over a very short period you too can get data and insights that could prove invaluable over time.

Don’t think of eCommerce and brick and mortar as either or. Retail is changing but it’s still retail. The fundamentals have not changed. It’s still about connecting with the customer, service, value (not just price), the experience etc. The list of fundamentals are the same whether you’re on or offline. The main thing is to be consistent.

In short the larger players do not have a monopoly on innovation and in fact their size can often be a negative. An independent can make 100’s of decisions a day without the need to go up some management chain. The retail space is becoming one of the most innovative. According to President Obama it’s second only to space travel, only joking. But seriously the new wave of innovative solutions coming down the line are not just aimed at the big guys, they are increasingly aimed at the independent retail sector.

The future is not yet written and even if the big guys think it is just think how much fun we can have mixing it up a little.

Here’s to an exceedingly busy run in to Christmas.

Cheers,

Mark.

future retail

Where the Independent can win.

In this day and age it seems the buzz words just keep coming. Two such words are “personalisation” and “individualisation”. These are not just words however they are much more than that. What they are, is the idea that all messages and campaigns can be personalised and targeted at a particular audience, or the Holy Grail, the individual.

doo i know you

Nowhere is this more important than in the brave new world of ecommerce and digital marketing. The idea is that using all the big data tools at their disposal large brands and retailers can get a particular product in front of a particular individual just around the time they might be contemplating a purchase. The problem however as I see it is the dichotomy of this approach. By definition the large brands and retailers have at their core the approach of mass appeal. Zara sells the same product in Ireland and the UK as they do in Spain for example. Tommy Hilfiger jeans as far as I can see are the same regardless of whether you buy them on Fifth Avenue or Oxford Street. The lovely thought that Calvin Klein or Debenhams is aware of exactly who you are and what your real world preferences are is so far from the mark. Even if they do have a profile of a customer bracket within which you happen to fit are you really going to believe that you and you alone will be walking the high street in the particular product you’re purchasing? I would think not.

This is where it gets interesting however. The big guys work on numbers, they churn big data and come up with very valuable insights. Their product is the same across the globe or country in which they operate but their marketing campaigns differ. If we contrast that with the wide and diverse world of Independent Retail we can see stark differences. And it’s in these differences that competitive advantages lie.

big data

The majority of independent retailers do not have access to the kind of data the big guys have. But the question is do they need it? The Independent is much more likely to know their customers by name than the multiple. They are likely to have more face time and real world interactions. They know their demographic and niche. They know these things not from some code or algorithm but from talking with, meeting and greeting the customer. The Independent retail sector as a whole is much more diverse and exciting than the big operators who work on a model based around volume and homogenisation. We really believe in Stylefinch HQ that the Independent retail sector should be shouting about the diversity and differences that exist across our high streets.

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In my local town there are 15 plus independent boutiques. Each boutique has a completely different flavour and diverse product range. You will not find the same labels or exact product in any one of them. The closest Shopping Centre is populated by M&S, Debenhams, Zara, New Look etc. and guess what they all look the same. If you have an event and want to look different then go to our boutiques. If you want to look like everybody else then open that next personalised Email and buy the product that has just been sent to hundreds if not thousands of others at the same time. The only thing personal about it is your name. For real personal sign up to your favourite local retailer’s Email marketing list or check out their smaller unique online store or better still go say hello. After all you know them and they know you.

Viva la difference.

Turn the tables on the downturn.

The news is old and the message repetitive, the high street is under pressure. Perhaps we should take comfort in the knowledge that there’s hardly a sector that is not (misery loves company after all). Sure the high street gets the press, perhaps due to the very real effects both visually and physically on the streets of our towns and cities. But take a drive through many industrial estates and the picture is similar with many units closed and up for sale or lease.

We are certainly in a period of great change but that doesn’t have to mean for the worse. Retail as we all know is about change. Seasonality, product ranges, pricing, merchandising, as retailers we are all about change. Hourly, daily, weekly, it’s what makes our industry so dynamic. So don’t fight it, instead use our capacity for change to turn the tables.

During the Independents Month initiative in Britain why not make a commitment to look at new and innovative ways to cement your business and it’s place on the high street. 

Did you know that just over 26% of UK and 16% of Irish businesses believe that investing in  eCommerce is vital for growth. Now contrast that with a recent finding that 49% of Britain’s smart phone users have made a purchase online within the last 6 months. More interesting yet is the fact that 36% of smartphone users had used a map tool in the 7 days prior to the survey. Would they find your shop if they were looking for it online?

Further data shows that 74% check their mail on their phone and 67% use their phone for search purposes. Both of these trends offer retailers an opportunity to get in front of their customers. How many of us have run email campaigns? How many of us have collected email addresses only to leave them sitting on our laptops or desktops?

How many of us would show up in a search query, for our location or category? None of the these even involve a website let alone an eCommerce enabled site. A simple web listing goes some way towards solving the search issue and a weekly or monthly mail shot gets directly to your customer. If you can find a more cost effective way to get in front of your customer I’d love to hear about it because right now I’d suggest email is still the number 1.

So I suppose this week I’d suggest again that even if your in the trenches and finding it hard to get your head up, if you can you’ll find opportunities do exist. In the words of the Pet Shop Boys “there’s a lot of opportunities if you’ll only take them”, the poetry of Neil Tennant there, can’t beat a bit of poetry. But seriously we love to take a collaborative approach where ever possible and this months Independents initiative is a great example of that approach. Well done to all involved and no doubt it will be a great success. As independents we do enjoy many advantages over the larger competition as I’ve said before. Strength in numbers is certainly one. When taken as a group our range of product, service and pricing leaves the largely homogeneous offering of the multiples for dead. We just need to shout about it and hopefully that’s what this months campaign will do.

Have a great month.

It’s not where you start it’s where you finish.

I thought I’d start this weeks blog with a few stats from the UK, Australia and Ireland. The reason being there’s a similar trend across the three countries and given their maturity when compared to emerging markets the mind boggles at the opportunities still out there. So here goes.

Did you know that there are 5 million private sector businesses in the UK. Of these 5 million 99.9% are classed as SME’s. Of these, Small businesses (0 to 49 employees) account for 47% of employment and 34% of private sector turnover. Now the important stats, over 33.3% of these businesses have no web site, only 41% have a social media account and possibly most importantly only 33% have a website with the functionality for customers to purchase products or services online.

The Australian experience is similar. Australian Bureau of Statistics show that only 43% of businesses have a website but more importantly when looking at small businesses it seems the figure is also around 33%. 

Guess what in Ireland it’s not that different with 32% of SME’s not having a website. Less than 23% sell electronically and only half of them purchasing online.

Three similar stories across three different markets of differing sizes and degrees of maturity. But all three territories continue to experience eCommerce growth. This is happening while high street revenues continue to struggle. So the question then must be if the small business sector, and the area we are interested in the Independent Retail Sector, has failed to take advantage of the new technology and resulting revenue streams then who’s getting the benefits? The answer is the likes of ASOS and Amazon and the multi-channel retailers such as Next and Debenhams etc. It is no coincidence that the growth of the large multi-channel retailers such as Argos and the giant online operators such as Amazon etc has happened at the expense high street.

But surely the glass is half full as opposed to half empty. With the low level of adoption of eCommerce by the small business sector then surely there is as yet untapped growth potential. The forecast for eCommerce is continued growth so if you have not yet gotten to grips with eCommerce the good news is it’s not to late. Bite the bullet and dive in as you know we believe there’s strength in numbers. And 99.9% is a pretty big number (I think). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, (for those of a younger persuasion try broken cassette or broken CD or damaged iPod or interrupted download. Should cover everyone), it’s time for independent retailers to shout about how great they are. But in 2013 that means shouting via your shop floor, shop window, local press, social media and as more of your customers are shopping from their sofas at 7pm on a Sunday evening most importantly your eCommerce enabled website. 

Remember it’s not where you start but where you finish so get online and get in the race.

Next week I’ll be looking at the changing consumer habits and the opportunities that exist for the high street. 

Until next week, thanks for reading.

Did you know that there are 5 million private sector businesses in the UK. Of these 5 million 99.9% are classed as SME’s. Of these, Small businesses (0 to 49 employees) account for 47% of employment and 34% of private sector turnover. Now the important stats, over 33.3% of these businesses have no web site, only 41% have a social media account and possibly most importantly only 33% have a website with the functionality for customers to purchase products or services online.

The Australian experience is similar. Australian Bureau of Statistics show that only 43% of businesses have a website but more importantly when looking at small businesses it seems the figure is also around 33%. 

Guess what in Ireland it’s not that different with 32% of SME’s not having a website. Less than 23% sell electronically and only half of them purchasing online.

Three similar stories across three different markets of differing sizes and degrees of maturity. But all three territories continue to experience eCommerce growth. This is happening while high street revenues continue to struggle. So the question then must be if the small business sector, and the area we are interested in the Independent Retail Sector, has failed to take advantage of the new technology and resulting revenue streams then who’s getting the benefits? The answer is the likes of ASOS and Amazon and the multi-channel retailers such as Next and Debenhams etc. It is no coincidence that the growth of the large multi-channel retailers such as Argos and the giant online operators such as Amazon etc has happened at the expense high street.

But surely the glass is half full as opposed to half empty. With the low level of adoption of eCommerce by the small business sector then surely there is as yet untapped growth potential. The forecast for eCommerce is continued growth so if you have not yet gotten to grips with eCommerce the good news is it’s not to late. Bite the bullet and dive in as you know we believe there’s strength in numbers. And 99.9% is a pretty big number (I think). At the risk of sounding like a broken record, (for those of a younger persuasion try broken cassette or broken CD or damaged iPod or interrupted download. Should cover everyone), it’s time for independent retailers to shout about how great they are. But in 2013 that means shouting via your shop floor, shop window, local press, social media and as more of your customers are shopping from their sofas at 7pm on a Sunday evening most importantly your eCommerce enabled website. 

Remember it’s not where you start but where you finish so get online and get in the race.

Next week I’ll be looking at the changing consumer habits and the opportunities that exist for the high street. 

Until next week, thanks for reading.

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A personal story of multiple v independent.

Just a quick blog this week and it concerns a number of points. One of which is a personal experience with a large multiple and the lesson it holds. 

So last Friday my wife did our weekly shop and decided to go to our local Tesco Extra. A typical out of town box of some 100,000 square feet. Big, sprawling and impersonal. When she returned home she discovered she had two charges showing on her card. One family shop, two charges. Not really satisfactory. Quick call to Tesco to explain we had been charged twice to be told it sometimes happens and the error will be picked up and corrected over the next two or three days. Not really satisfactory. Midweek and the €130 or so is still being held and the funds are not available to us. Not very satisfactory. Today, after we followed up with our bank, they tell us it will take 10 working days to get the funds back in our account and available to us. Not really satisfactory.

So what does this small insignificant event tell us about our modern retail environment?

Firstly our potential problem is of little concern to anyone in our local Tesco. In these difficult times  it’s not good enough to just dismiss this type of error, Tesco’s error. For all they know we need those funds to cover a mortgage repayment or other pressing bills. Who would assist a customers who has direct debits bouncing all over the place due to this type of situation, not Tesco or our bank for that matter it seems. Luckily we are not in that position but the retailer doesn’t know this or care it appears.

Secondly, as we are pushed towards cashless payments more and more this type of experience would colour my judgement in future transactions with someone like a Tesco.

Thirdly the off hand manner in how the problem was dealt with seems to suggest this is not an isolated event. 

We here at Stylefinch are passionate about independent retail and although this type of event is a nuisance it does allow me to take some positives from the experience. Independent retail still enjoys some advantages over the multiples when it comes to this type of problem. It has always been felt that independent retail can win over the larger retailers by way of customer service and that personal touch. This week has just underlined that fact to me again. I know at least 25% of my the independent retailers in my town by name and another 40% to say hello to and the balance I’d know to see. I recently bought a pair of shoes (thank you Richie Whelan Menswear) from one and noted I was charged €10 over the marked price. I dropped back in and explained the error and was handed €10 cash back there and then. I paid by card, didn’t matter, I wanted to show my receipt, didn’t need to see it. The refund was from the business owner even though he hadn’t been present when I purchased the shoes the day earlier.

Distinct difference in approach. The town in which I live has a population of 25,000 so it’s of a reasonable size. The Tesco is 1.5km from this store but 1000km from their approach.

This is why we must all strive to get the message out that towns and cities without independent retail are towns and cities without a heart. Saving the high street is not just good commerce it’s social.

Remember an independent high street it’s not business it’s personal.

 

Do what your good at… Retail.

The eCommerce world is dynamic, it changes quickly and what’s fashionable this year is out next. Sound familiar? The business of eCommerce has many parallels with retail, in particular fashion retail. It’s in a state of constant change, it’s re-imagined and refined in an effort to sustain growth and innovation.It’s an exciting high energy space with continued growth predictions.

So why, oh why are there not more independent retailers making inroads online and making their presence felt? There are some barriers to entry, especially if you’re alone and do not have a support structure aimed at getting online and managing the many facets associated with becoming an eCommerce player. Another reason could be found in the latest report as highlighted by the Digital Marketing Institute.

(you’ll find the details here http://digitalmarketinginstitute.ie/blog/half-of-europeans-lack-digital-skills ). Put simply the report found that up to 50% of Europeans have little or no digital skills. It would therefore stand to reason that a high percentage of retailers fall into this category too. This is not something that should be a deterrent  to getting your business online. Quite a few retailers I’ve spoken to recently have expressed their embarrassment at not being digitally literate so to speak. My answer is quite simply that they have no great need to be.  My assertion is that if you can run a facebook page you’re not a million miles away (or kilometers in some parts) from being able to manage a basic eCommerce site.

I have yet to meet great techies and web designers who could run a retail outlet of any size. Lets think about that for a moment. As an independent retailer you are responsible for merchandising, purchasing, marketing, customer service, staffing, book keeping, pricing etc, etc, etc. So I would suggest it’s unreasonable to beat ourselves up for not being web developers, Search Engine Optimisation experts, Digital and Social marketing experts, Fulfillment specialists etc, etc, etc. If you want to install a tap you call a plumber, if you want to get accounts signed off get an accountant and so on. Why then if you want to sell online do we feel we have to do that ourselves.

Independent retail is very well placed to become a force in eCommerce. It’s easier for you to become a multichannel retailer than it is for say the ASOS’s of this world. It’s easier for you to stand out from the crowd and leverage your local loyal customer base than it is for someone like Tesco. You have a level of exclusivity that the multiples don’t enjoy. Not everyone wants to look the same, right. So if you’re in retail you should be in eCommerce. You have 90% of the work done. You know your business, you know your customer, you have your product so do what you do when you need accounts signed off. Find somebody to get the job done for you or as in our case with you. Independent retail has diversity, individuality, exclusivity and many other advantages over the larger chains so don’t let insecurity about your level of technical knowledge stop you. Take it from us at Stylefinch cost or technical knowledge is no longer a barrier to entry.

Storpal bricks &c clicks logo

High street closures, it’s not a done deal you know!

The demise of our high streets is very current right now. I’ve read this week of a near apocalyptic scenario whereby it’s predicted that up to 20% of UK high street stores will close by 2018. That figure could rise it seems to 30% for Wales and the North West of the UK, according to the Mail at any rate. This is now being reported as fact and is in danger as being consumed as such. Is there any other industry where this would happen? I think not. Independent retail is diverse and as such can sometimes struggle to speak with one voice. For example how would the drinks industry, pharmaceutical industry, road haulage industry and perhaps farmers react to such headlines? Loudly no doubt.

We need to get away from the fait accompli approach to the high street. This is not a fact and is not guaranteed to happen if the high street and independent retailers react. Retail is and always has been about change. Seasonality, product and range, merchandising and reacting to the challenges presented over the last 100 years. Wanamaker’s Grand Emporium Philadelphia saw the arrival of the merchandiser, retailers began to welcome customers to their stores. This was more than just a catchphrase as retailers dismantled steps and any other hindrance a customer might encounter prior to entry. Next on the agenda was large windows, dressed with mannequins. Ground breaking indeed. The death of the small retailer was imminent it seemed. Guess what they adapted.

Stores such as Selfridges of London, Marshall Fields of Chicago and Bon Marche of Paris were swiftly followed Frank Woolworth and the first chain store in the early 20th Century. Independent retail was on the ropes. However the next retail revolution was not another large format but was the arrival of the boutique. The fact is when you chart the development of retail you see a constant pattern of change. Decline and renaissance as portrayed in the book “The Business of Britain in the 20th Century”.

The fact that retail is all about change should allow us to grab the new environment of eCommerce and mold it to suit our needs as retailers. Technology is changing the world at ever increasing speeds. The way we bank, the way we communicate and yes the way we shop. But behind all the technology there’s always people. We as retailers have communicated with our customers face to face, on our shop floors. We can still communicate but our shop floor is now in more than one place. If anything it’s now even easier to meet our customers, easier to have a conversation, a real two way conversation. But in order to do this we must be in the right state of mind and in the right places. Our high street location is now only one such place. Others include twitter, facebook, pinterest and hopefully on our eCommerce enabled web site. Change brings with it great challenges but it also brings great opportunities. Embrace the opportunities to mitigate the challenges.

As independent retailers we need to be more confident. Independent retail offers individuality, service, diversity and more often than not quality. Quality of service and product. Getting drawn into a price war with online retailers is a zero sum game. Independent retail brings much more to the party than price. Get online, develop an eCommerce site. Do this not just to sell but to shout. Shout about what you’re good at, your advantages, your personality. Be brave and embrace the change, after all where would retail be without change?