5 ways to use your independence to your advantage

This week I have the pleasure of being at Spring Fair 2018 in Birmingham, speaking to independent retailers about how they can grow their brands, maximise their profits and compete effectively against the big retailers in the UK's giftware, stationery and greetings card markets...

There is no doubt that large retail players in all channels dominate the market – using their buying power to get better cost prices which allows them to make more profit and then offer lower retail prices, more promotions and have mega sales. This buying power allows them to grab customers’ attention and buy market share. By definition discounters always offer cheap prices and many consumers use them as their main outlets. Online sellers (Amazon and the like) have broad product ranges, cheap prices, are accessible anytime, usually offer quick delivery, and often make it cheap and easy to return. So when you think about their way of doing business and what they can offer it is easy to feel downhearted and that there is nothing you can do to counter this - but this is absolutely not the case!


A lot of the purchasing done with big retail businesses is functional: customers buying things they know they need a lot of so they want it to be at the best price.

What you can offer in addition to 'function' is the fun and personal side of shopping - the nice bits, the treats! So your challenge is to make every customer feel really special and encourage them back the next time they want a treat, and to spread the word in the meantime...

So here are 5 ways to use your independence to your advantage and make customers feel special:

  1. Broadcast the fact that you are local and convenient – make sure your shop is the 1st place a customer thinks of when they want to buy and that they can enjoy coming into your shop. There has been an increasing focus on ‘local’ produce and this does not just have to relate to food – so if it is relevant to your product sector and would be relevant to your customers, use your local knowledge to find some products.
  2. Keep your customers coming back to you – always think about what they want to buy  and ensure you are offering the best products for them at the right price; keep updating your range and change your windows and displays to highlight the NEW products you have for them. To help with this, arrange for the deliveries of your new stock to arrive several weeks apart so each new range gets a chance to be seen and your customers are keen to see what has just arrived.
  3. Get to know your competitors – keep watching what they are doing but don’t copy them… think how can you do better on product/service/price etc.
  4. Offer products and services your customers cannot get online – it is very difficult to better an online offer but what can you do they can’t? Great service, personal recommendations and advice, personal products/services, events, loyalty schemes? Remember you can’t touch, feel or try-on products being sold online.
  5. Be agile, flexible, react quickly – review regularly and re-plan your range and offers as you need to, change your windows and displays to reflect the changes e.g. if a product isn’t selling reduce it to get the money and space for something new.

When you get back to your shop after Spring Fair, put a date in your diary to consider how you can relate these 5 points to your business and prepare to make 2018 your best year yet!