Occasions like the Royals’ big day are an opportunity not to be missed by indie retailers, says Kishor Patel

The build-up to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding is beginning to dominate television and newspapers. It should also be top of mind for the nation’s independent retailers.

The event presents us with a perfect excuse to put a bit of sparkle into our shops and, of course, to drive up sales. It starts with buying and merchandising the wedding essentials disposables, party foods, Champagne, balloons.

But there’s no reason it shouldn’t end up with a party outside the store, on the day itself or even the day before, to get customers into the party mood. And the wedding isn’t the only event indies should be capitalising on.

All of us want to increase footfall, increase turnover and to build strong relationships in the community. So why not spend the next 12 months organising a few in-store events? It’s a brilliant opportunity to kill these three birds with one stone. If, after a year, it hasn’t worked, no problem; at least you tried. But I can guarantee once you’ve got the ball rolling, you’ll want to keep it going year after year.

It’s about putting a bit of pizzazz and generating that wow factor into the store. According to my trusty dictionary, the definition of ‘pizzazz’ is “an attractive combination of energy and style”. Think about this definition it should form the basis of your plans for the event.

And, as always, preparation is the key to success. Involve your staff, involve the community and involve your suppliers you’ll discover that they’re all keen to get involved in something a bit different to their routine, day-to-day operation. Create a buzz and your customers will soon catch the party bug.

Kishor’s top tips for an event

1) Plan your event a year in advance
2) Allocate a member of staff to each event
3) Involve your customers and your suppliers
4) Communicate before, during and after the event
5) Enjoy the day!

Pencil in dates throughout the year from celebration days such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, to more traditional annual events such as Easter and Diwali. Maybe consider two or three of the annual sporting events the FA Cup, Grand National or Wimbledon perhaps, or global occasions such as the Olympics or the World Cup.

It could also be a local event, which are often more memorable, such as a popular local character getting married, a diamond wedding anniversary or exam results days. Other events that could provide an opportunity include Pancake Day, Halloween, St George’s Day (or of course St David’s Day, Burns Night, St Patrick’s Day or Chinese New Year).

Nominate someone in your team to organise one of the events. Sit down with your team and allocate the year’s events and arrange one-to-one meetings with the organisers encourage them to be creative, give them one or two ideas and let them know what their budget is.

Most importantly, reassure them and give plenty of moral and practical support. Talk to them about decorating the store, communicating the event to customers (we always work closely with the local media in running forward features) and about the detail of how it will run on the day.

One of the best theme days I’ve been to was held last year in Gerrard’s Cross, where Paul and Sam Fisher had organised a Local Suppliers Festival in the village hall. The place was jam-packed (literally) with tasting areas for all kinds of produce, from sausages to speciality cheeses and even Caramel Vodka.

It was a great day and a gentle reminder to local people that they have a great retailer in their area. On a smaller scale, we’re holding an Easter event with Allied Bakeries and Unilever to sample hot cross buns with Flora, and a range of other baked goods and new products.

Such events don’t have to cost very much at all and I always encourage my staff to carry out a ‘post-mortem’ immediately afterwards to evaluate its success, or otherwise. But it’s not all about the short-term bottom line. You have to take a much longer view. It’s about cementing relationships with the local people, putting a smile on their faces, bringing a bit of fun into their life and being part of the community.

New in my store
Name: Paul Cheema
Name of store: Malcolm’s Store, Coventry
Main suppliers: Costcutter, Heineken and Victoria Dairies

How often do you get new products in? Costcutter’s New Era Gold scheme alerts me to product launches. Building relationships with suppliers is key.

What new products have you started stocking recently? We’ve stocked a range of new products. The main new thing we are doing in terms of products though is linking products together to provide complete meals.

Is any one product selling particularly well and why? Our partnership with Heineken helped us to improve sales of the Heineken glassware pack and included updating and improving store fixtures, layouts and cross-shopping opportunities.

Is any product selling particularly badly and why? Tobacco sales have really taken a hit and that’s down to the duty price increase and reduced disposable income for the consumer. We also have a Costco in the vicinity, which has affected trade.

Have you delisted any products recently? Several products are delisted on an ongoing basis. We have to rationalise the range and ensure it reflects what our shoppers want. We use as much sales data as we can get our hands on!

Are there any other products you’ve got your eye on? I’m definitely going to be focusing on cider products and developments. Also, I will be focusing on linking BBQ products with merchandising.

Propertyof the week
What: Convenience store and petrol station
Where: Muir of Ord, Ross-shire

The Spar convenience store and petrol station in the Highland village of Muir of Ord has hit the market with an asking price of £650,000. The business offers excellent margins, a good-sized store of approximately 1,600 sq ft and a sizeable forecourt with 16 petrol pumps and potential for further development.

Planning permission has been granted to develop the site’s MOT workshop, which could be turned into a café or takeaway.

Muir of Ord is a scenic village in the Eastern Scottish Highlands with a growing population of approximately 1,800. For more information on purchasing the freehold for this business, contact David Higgins of Christie + Co on 01315 576666.

Business Barometer

Are you more or less optimistic about the future than you were this time last year?
The same: 31%
Less: 44%
More: 25%

What impact will the Royal Wedding have on sales?
No impact whatsoever: 49%
Slight negative: 11%
Slight positive:26%
Significant negative: 3%
Significant positive: 11%

How was the Budget for your business?
It made no difference: 30%
It had a negative effect: 69%
It helped a little: 1%

Have you ever bought items from a supermarket to sell in your store?
No: 67%
Yes: 33%

Do you think the tobacco display ban will fuel sales of bootleg cigarettes?
Maybe: 8%
No: 16%
Yes: 76%