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12 May 2021

The Return of Independent Retail

We asked Jeff Moody, Commercial Director of BIRA, what advice he has for independent retailers post lockdown in 2021.

I’m looking forward to a vibrant and varied high street again. There’s a huge opportunity for indies now after the dramatic changes of the retail landscape in the past year. But to get to that point, we need to work through three key challenges.

Firstly, payment methods have changed fundamentally and we’ve seen a massive move away from cash. Lots of insurance policies depend on how much cash you’re carrying in the business, and the acceptance of a variety of non-cash payments.

For example, if you're based in London or a popular city-break tourist destination, you need to accept Alipay because of the popularity in using that platform from shoppers coming from the Far East. There’s also been a big shift in using Open Banking and shoppers using Apple Pay or GooglePay with their phones. Last year alone card payments totalled more than 50% of all sales. Being ready to accept payments from your customers in these formats as the high streets reopen is crucial.

Another challenge facing indies is how fast shoppers are comparing prices on goods and services. With the boom in online shopping in the past 12 months, everyone is capable of checking your prices against someone else’s in minutes. So adding value to your customers’ experience is going to be key. This is where the enthusiasm and purpose of indies really comes into play. Indies know and love their product inside and out, so adding value to the customer experience shouldn’t be an issue for those who can talk passionately and in an informed way about what they are selling.

Display of your products and services is also going to be key to standing out and creating an incredible customer experience. Learning from the very ‘hands off’ approach to retailing we defaulted to during COVID-19, how can we create displays, visualisations and suggestions of how to use products to help sell them? And how can these displays support how we sell them in an authentic way that genuinely meets our customers’ needs?

And finally, we have to remember that we have all been through an unprecedented experience, the aftershocks of which are going to be felt by society for years to come.  The high street will feel like a daunting environment for many as restrictions are eased. My biggest wish for retail is that it opens as soon as possible, but it opens safely.

Customers need to feel safe in our stores. If we can make customers feel safe, valued, comfortable and give them an incredible, but appropriate, experience we will have cracked the formula.

The British Independent Retailers Association has been supporting independent retail business for over 120 years.

The retail industry is undergoing a significant transformation and BIRA members benefit from genuine savings of crucial business services, find out more on the BIRA website.

May 2021

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