Paul and I have worked in retail for pretty much all our lives – both in shops and head office teams, and more recently as a consultancy (albeit I am using retail in its broadest sense of a business that serves customers). I think it’s fair to say that the whole of the retail landscape is changing at a faster pace than we have ever known. The big players are disappearing off the high streets, the online players are making commodity buying simpler and simpler, and customer expectations of value and convenience are higher than ever.
So, what does that mean for the independents? Well… in our opinion, the future of high street retailing lies with the independents. As Amazon widens it’s grasp on commodities, consumers are spending less of their precious free time in the supermarkets or DIY stores. And when they visit the high streets, they’re looking for an experience … a good choice of carefully curated products – beautiful, useful, unique, satisfying. Store environments are more important than ever – if customers are choosing to go shopping for leisure, it needs to feel, um, leisurely. I’ve already in a previous blog about how we use music to create a slow, relaxing environment, but the thing that makes the difference is the team... our team have been carefully chosen for their friendly, chatty personalities (we’re VERY proud of our team – they are superstars … we work them hard, but we also make sure we have some fun along the way). They know the products inside and out and love to find the perfect product for customers (and sometimes that means we recommend another local business!) but we don’t do selling – that’s a rule. We’ll offer advice and suggestions – and if you just want to come in for a mooch and a chat, that’s cool. We love to chat.
I also want to talk briefly about online; we hear a lot of chatter about how online is killing the high street. We disagree… while we work hard to make sure our customers in the shop get a great experience, we also recognise that convenience is also a critical part of our customer offer. And in a world where everything is available at the touch of a button, we use our online offer to complement our retail offering. We don’t offer our whole range online (it would be a logistical nightmare given the unique nature of a lot of our products!) but we do offer our faster moving products on there and we make sure we offer the same level of service to our online customers with beautiful wrapping and efficient delivery … now and again we even pop an extra little treat in the package to say thank you for shopping online with us.
So – what next for the high streets? I wish we knew. The one thing we do know for sure is that customers tell us that they love what we do, so we’ll keep doing it. We’ll keep listening to what people are looking for. And we’ll keep working with industry experts and local influencers to promote local business. And if we give it everything we’ve got – there will be no regrets.