Many independent traders avoid buying from big brands. They don’t have the buying power of the multiples, so they can’t compete on price. As a result, they end up buying from smaller brands.
And a good thing too. For me, it’s that uniqueness, the unfamiliar brands I can discover, that adds to the pleasure of visiting independent retailers - often they stock products from new, up-and-coming brands, meaning when I shop indie I get to discover fantastic products long before they become mass-market.
But trading is tough. Hit hard by business rates rises and the impact of consumers tightening their belts, many smaller retailers are struggling. Footfall and sales are down as consumers shift to shopping out of town or online. Shoppers are losing touch with what indies have to offer.
I wanted to create a good reason for them to reconnect with their local traders. So, in 2012, the Support for Independent Retail campaign launched off the back of the more established Independent Retailer Month. This year-round campaign provides ‘support, advice, ideas and inspiration to help independent retailers stay open for business’.
“Consumers need to understand how valued they are by local traders”
There are three annual events that specifically focus on reconnecting the local community with local traders: Independent Retailer Month (July), Celebrate an Independent Christmas (launched in 2012) and Enjoy an Independent Easter, which will launch on 23 March this year.
All the events focus on creating fun activities in a local community to help reconnect the community with its local traders, the ‘hidden gems’ in a community that can so easily can be overlooked.
The Celebrate an Independent Christmas campaign achieved this through 50 Christmas Shopping Crawls UK-wide. When shoppers had completed the crawl they were entered into a prize draw. Across 50 towns, a prize fund of over £25,000 was raised - an amazing result.
Shopping Crawls connect local people with shops they may not always visit, giving shops the opportunity to meet potential new customers, showcase their wares and increase sales.
The Enjoy an Independent Easter event, which runs throughout the school holiday, will create a similar activity - an Easter Egg Hunt aimed at engaging families and the next generation of shoppers!
Consumers need to understand how valued they are by local traders. The Centre for Local Economic Strategies did some research for the Federation of Small Businesses, which stated that “for each £1 spent locally, 50p-70p recirculates back into the local economy. The same £1 spent with an online giant or with out-of-town stores only returns 5p.” When consumers know the positive impact their shopping choices could make, it helps change their behaviour.
Looking ahead, I anticipate that more and more retailers and communities will want to get involved with the campaign events. It may take some time, but step by step I hope that communities will re-engage with their local traders.
Clare Rayner’s How to Sell to Retail - the Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market - is out on 3 February