The retail sector is the biggest employer in Britain, with 2.9 million people employed in retail in 2019, accounting for more than 15% of jobs. However high streets up and down the country are under attack. From the rise of convenient online shopping with infinite choice driving the decline of footfall, to the mounting pressures of business rates, tax, and the Living Wage, competition from larger charity shops, many of our small retailers are struggling to turn a profit.
Marks & Spencer and Prezzo branches, Poundworld, BHS, Carluccio’s, Homebase, Mothercare, Debenhams, Maplin, ToysRUs, and Carphone Warehouse are among the well known closures contributing to massive job losses and decline in our high streets. Added to this, the lockdown for non-essential shops due to COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the retail sector with retail sales seeing its biggest fall since records began 30 years ago. This has been partially offset by stronger online and food sales which increased as a reaction to the social isolation restrictions.
However, there are some examples of success and a thriving independent sector is key to success – Altricham’s turnaround from ghost town to vibrant award-winning town centre is just one example. Many retailers have got great products, and to succeed, they need help in finding ways to reach more new customers, and market their products so customers see them as preferable to the competition. In terms of the impact of COVID-19, it is those businesses who have pivoted to exploit the opportunities provided by the lockdown who have been most successful including home deliveries, medical supplies and specialist services.
We’ve supported several thousand independent retailers across the UK to create effective business growth strategies, increase their skills and knowledge, and help them understand what marketing tactics and messages will unlock their potential.
We delivered a small service working with Tower Hamlets independent retailers to grow their sales. Programme Manager, Alba Maraver Cadenas, says “The service has been about providing hands-on support to retailers to help them reach more customers and make more money through creating and implementing robust marketing plans. We have helped our clients with branding, messaging, social media, websites, customer segmentation and profiling and much more. We also provided advice on how to optimise the layout of merchandise to attract more customers.”
The success of this project was down to our experience, the relationships that we build with retailers, and the tangible financial returns that our advice has delivered – almost £1m in new sales, despite an incredibly tough trading environment. More retailers joined the programme through word of mouth recommendations of those that had worked with us already.
A study by We Made That found that three quarters of London shoppers said that interacting with the community was the ‘best thing’ about their high street. The study concluded that for the most marginalised or isolated in society, such as the elderly, young people, newly arrived immigrants and jobseekers, a trip to the high street represents an important chance to meet others. Strengthening the ability of creative independent retailers and innovative entrepreneurs to survive and thrive can catalyse successful regeneration, give areas a new identity, and make our high streets and town centres attractive places for work and leisure.
To find out how we can help regenerate your town centre and support your independent retailers, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or T 0800 121 4458.