We have heard it time and time again in the news: the demise of the high street in the UK and Ireland. Mary Portas was contracted by the government to advise on how to put life back into the shopping community and create original ideas for the local councils and planning authorities who have been very much to blame for destroying the once thriving town centres. Regrettably, there are a number of retail jewellers included in this demise. But is there really no hope?
Of course there is hope! Learn from the multiples that have made shopping centres very much their domain when it comes to jewellery and watch retailing. You have to create a reason for shoppers to visit you rather than your competitors. There must be an outward and visual appeal, no matter what retailers say about customer service and how very good they are at offering it. The simple fact is that you need customers to enter your store to exercise that marvellous service you have over your rivals.
So, you need customers to enter your shop first and foremost. What drives them to your shop? Easy answer: marketing, visual merchandising and a great stock. Also you should embrace the e-commerce world with a website, and for those selling from the site, you need a click-and-collect facility and any other trick to make the buying experience easier. I have come across many ‘niche’ businesses who feel that driving their business forward can only be done by utilising online presence.
Go all out to attract new clientele by offering something special by way of promotions (not just old-fashioned sales discounts). Embrace the social media sites that are at your fingertips and if you don’t have the personal talent to do this, find someone in your team who can, or employ a small marketing agency to help you. Use your local radio and TV stations to promote yourselves as the experts in your field.
It is better not to advertise a well-known brand if others in the town or nearest shopping centre have this product range also. It is always best to advertise what is unique to you and to link in with that brand’s advertising campaign or any promotion that is current.
The situation of dying high streets and town centres is a very real problem. At Houlden Group meetings we have owner/manager sessions for our members to talk openly and confidentially and to share their problems and successes with fellow members. Naturally we keep geographically competing members apart.
We as retailers all need to stop thinking about what we’re used to do, suppliers we have always worked with. Revisit yourself and your business, look for and find success and give your new people coming into the business the chance to have their say. Their views may be very different from yours, but conservatism will get you nowhere while the face of retail continues to evolve.
Times have changed and we must adopt the new ideas, adapt them to our business and improve our turnover and profits. Start listening and sharing and get rid of yesterday’s thinking.
Stuart Laingis the Houlden Group CEO. This feature first appeared in the January 2014 issue of Jewellery Focus.