The Secrets Of A Successful Independent Retail Outlet


Independent retail is challenging.

We’ve been trading with Salcombe for 12-years and like many others have experienced the highs and the lows. Yet despite the recession we’ve continued to build our brand, introduce new products and entice highly satisfied customers.

Of course every shop is different, and the retail experience in different cities varies too. But read on and discover the top four things we feel underpin the success of our business.

What’s yours?

1. Deliver

Service is critical to the success of any retail business and so our emphasis is always on the importance of customer involvement and satisfaction.

It’s important to have highly trained staff who know what excellent service looks like. For example over half the team we employ have a background in Hotel Management and their “hospitalilty” shines through.

Try to make every customer who comes through the door feel welcome, whatever they’re buying – whether that’s a packet of napkins for a one-off dinner party, or a client furnishing an entire house on the Royal Crescent.  The secret is to maintain the same friendly and open manner with all customers, even celebrities!  In fact, try to welcome customers in the same way you would welcome guests into your home, with smiling faces and open knowledgeable chat.

And this approach applies behind the scenes too. So away from the shop floor maintain those high standards. That could take the form of a perfected mail order packaging and gift wrapping system to your social media presence. Whatever you do, ensure that even away from your physical shop your high class presence is felt.

2. Attention to detail

Your shop carries your presence and you’ll fine tune and perfect the details over time.

Your interior design will depend on what you sell and who your target market is. For us it’s in the finite detail. The calm colour of the walls, top quality shop fittings, hand-written tags for clarity and the personal touch. So be prepared to go the extra mile. Whether that’s ordering something extra or carrying bags to your customer’s car. The secret here is to pride yourself on being available for the customer – see what difference it makes.

And think about your window display too. We change ours weekly to inspire and entice passing customers to step inside. In addition, make sure your product knowledge is suitable to what you sell. If appropriate consider road testing products by a member of your team or even asking regular customers to get involved. These additional insights will allow you to offer an additional level of service and provide highly informed and knowledgeable answers to potential customer’s questions.

3. Sensual shopping

Shopping for products appeals to the senses. And so you need to consider that when honing your shop’s appearance.  Through your merchandising and interior design you can create an aesthetically pleasing environment that invites and calms your customers (or whatever it is for you). Get the background right and you’ll allow your products to sell themselves.

You need to consider the power of the subconscious mind when people are shopping. For example, the interior design and the backdrop for our products allow their quality to speak volumes as well subconsciously confirming our experience and knowledge in our field.

Explore fragrance. Olfaction is an incredibly powerful sense and can illicit memories. We use a particular fragrance to scent the rooms within our store. Then we spray mail order parcels with the same fragrance as a reminder of their visit.

Also consider the music you play. To support the calm atmosphere of our shops we play a broad range of easy listening tracks. They don’t dominate, but instead allow customers to browse peacefully but still chat. Amongst the vibe of the store, all of our products are open to be picked up and tested so that the experience of the store is interactive.

Why not have a play with the senses in your shop and consider how you can use music, scent, visuals and textures to create a multi-sensory shopping experience that suits your target customer?

4. Build your virtual presence

The presentation of the products in your online shop is vitally important. As well as attracting new clientele from afar it serves as a useful research tool for existing customers, and allows them to shop 24/7.

As you know social media use has risen in the last few years, and retailers are finding the likes of Twitter and Facebook an important promotional tool. If you’re not already onboard, it’s worth doing some research to see what’s involved and exploring it for yourself.  We’ve found that getting to grips with the new media has opened us up to a more youthful approach to business. What will it do for you?

In addition, we’ve recruited new graduate employees within the company and are listening to the younger, more fashion-led voice that drives a lot of social media output. It’s proven to be an effective strategy to bring new and contemporary ideas into the mix that will help lead our business to a brighter future. So be prepared to change with the times to maintain your competitive edge. For example try texting clients as well as using the more traditional email approach, for speedy communication and again, a personal touch.

micro business actionToday’s Micro Action

Go out of your shop and come back in as if you had never seen your shop before to try and recreate the same first impression as your customers. Next, jot down some new ideas to explore and test their effectiveness.