9 easy ways to grow your business this year

While the future still seems uncertain, making the most out of 2022 is undoubtedly a top priority for boutique owners. For this reason, we’ve collated a special new year ‘to-do’ list to help you plan for the next 12 months (and even further) ahead…

1. Enter an industry competition

Winning an award is always good for business. And triumphing in an industry competition means you’ll not only gain kudos from customers but from suppliers and other indies too. Entries for Boutique Star Awards 2022 open online in February and it’s completely free for retailers and brands. The competition launched in 2019 to celebrate fashion indies and their suppliers, covering a range of categories from Womenswear Retailer of the Year to Social Media Channel of the Year. The awards is open to retailers of all sizes and entries are completely free. This year will see the introduction of five new awards, including New Independent Retailer of the Year for boutiques launched in the last two years and Sustainable Independent of the Year to recognise those making strides to minimise their environmental impact. Entries will open via boutique-magazine.co.uk where indies and suppliers will be asked to write a synopsis of their business and provide supporting evidence to be in with a chance of winning. The winners will be announced at a celebratory winners’ party taking place in Central London this November, with full details set to be announced in spring.

2. Sell via a marketplace site

Joining a reputable online marketplace is a great way to reach new customers. Such sites often have high online marketing and advertising budgets to reach shoppers – allowing you to position your products to new buyers without a hefty outlay. Trouva has built itself a reputation as one of the best places to find unique products from indies around the world. It promises a global customer base with 1.5 million visits each month. Plus, it says 80 per cent of boutiques receive an order within two days of going live (trouva.com/sell-with-us). Down Your High Street (downyourhighstreet.co.uk) meanwhile offers a range of perks for its retail partners and indies can sign up for a free two-week trial. Lastly, Bira has just launched its own independent-only online marketplace, Neartoo (neartoo.co.uk), which covers many categories alongside fashion and lifestyle. Retailers only pay 7 per cent commission on orders and minimal transaction fees.

3. Try out a B2B marketplace

Forward ordering has become even trickier for indies since the start of the pandemic – and many buyers are now regularly using B2B marketplaces to top up their stock. Such sites work a bit like stock houses, allowing buyers to select pieces that are available for immediate delivery. However, the deliveries often arrive directly from suppliers themselves. There are numerous benefits of saving budget to buy in this way, including the flexibility to jump on emerging trends (think loungewear in April 2020) and having more control over cashflow. British site TradeGala (tradegala.com) offers a constant stream of independent brands with fast turnaround times and low minimum orders. Meanwhile, European marketplace Ankorstore (ankorstore.com) launched just three years ago and now offers over 11,000 brands on its site. Sales volumes have soared by 950 per cent between 2020 and 2021 with orders being delivered to 200,000 indies across the continent.

4. Offer more payment options

By now, pay later schemes (BNPL) have exploded over the past two years, allowing shoppers to spread the cost of their online purchases without paying any interest. Retailers are usually paid straight away for the transaction by the provider, which takes a small commission as its fee. The concept has been widely embraced by retailers of all sizes as it makes shopping more affordable for customers – especially for high ticket price items such as boots and winter coats. It’s particularly popular among the under 30s with and those with tight finances as they no longer have to wait until pay day to buy the latest must-have. The main players in the BNPL market are Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy, while PayPal and Monzo have also launched their own versions. Klarna charges retailers around 3 per cent commission plus a £0.20 transaction fee. British firm Butter launched its own BNPL credit card at the end of last year, enabling customers to use its payment service in-store.

5. Offer click-and-collect

Online shopping exploded during the lockdowns and many shoppers are holding onto the new habits they’ve gained during the pandemic. Click-and-collect adds convenience to your service, meaning customers can browse your products online at any time of day and then arrange in-store pick up. Retail statistics show that many customers buy more when they visit the physical shop, meaning there are several benefits to offering this service. Built into its Cloud POS, Citrus-Lime’s Ecommerce Click & Collect service provides a seamless shopping experience and a useful alternative to home delivery. The service is easy to add to your site once set up with the company’s e-commerce system (find out more via citruslime.com/what-we-do/ecommerce).

6. Try a different trade show

Are you looking for the ultimate new brand for 2022? Visiting a new trade could be a great way to discover fresh fashion talent and there’s a wide range on offer both at home and abroad. Originally an up-and-coming menswear show, Just Around the Corner (JATC) hosted its first womenswear event in London last summer. This January and February will see it merging both categories under one roof with two dedicated events in Manchester and the capital. Buyers will be able to discover 250 brands showing across two different venues, with over 40,000 sq ft of collections across both events. Alongside clothing, there will be dedicated zones for responsible brands as well as footwear and accessories. Plus, buyers will also be treated to complimentary refreshments (register for free entry via justaroundthecorner.co.ukregister). Harrogate Fashion Week, meanwhile, is growing in popularity among buyers and brands. Now in its sixth season, visitors are offered free parking and cloakroom facilities while they peruse the latest collections from some of the industry’s best-loved brands.

7. Tap into social commerce

The number of people buying directly on social media is set to soar in 2022. Why? Because it provides a consistent shopping experience right from when your customers discover your product to the checkout. Instagram is one of the most popular shoppable channels, with e-commerce specialists such as Shopify helping retailers showcase (and sell) their products to one billion potential customers. Such services make it easier to run your omni-channel operation as your inventory is linked online and in your physical store. There’s a free 14-day trial for retailers that want to start selling on social media, so you can test the water first without making a financial commitment (find out more at shopify.co.uk).

8. Promote Shop Local

Supporting local businesses became a movement in its own right last year as shoppers sought out indies over corporate giants. Boutiques can really tap into this consumer behaviour in 2022 by teaming up with other local businesses, using corresponding hashtags on social media and adding promotion materials to your store’s windows and displays. Online marketplace Down Your High Street (downyourhighstreet.co.uk) runs ongoing campaign #thinkwhereyoushop to encourage shoppers to use alternatives to online giants by choosing indies online. Later in the year, indies can take part in Colour Friday, which launched as part of #CampaignShopIndependent in November as the antidote to Black Friday (free downloads available via holly.co). There’s also £10,000 up for grabs for the winner of its High Street Shop Award, announced in December. Of course, Small Business Saturday is also a great campaign to get involved with as sponsor American Express offers money back on shoppers’ spending as part of its Shop Small scheme. Find out more at smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com).

9. Operate more sustainably

Shoppers are expected to become more conscious next year, choosing retailers with values over those that are just chasing profits. But you don’t have to completely overhaul your business next year to keep up. Instead, consider small steps you could make to minimise your carbon footprint or waste contribution. For example, offering an eco-friendly delivery option at the online checkout might be appreciated by some shoppers – and they may be willing to pay more too. Green Courier in London, for example, operates with a fleet of electric and low emission vehicles to reduce its customers’ contribution to climate change (greencourier.co.uk). You could also move your business accounts to an ethical bank, which invests in industries that don’t destroy the planet such as community solar projects and renewable energy. Triodos Bank is often included on consumer lists as one of the greenest banks available in UK (triodos.co.uk), but if you prefer a more renowned name then the Co-op has also made great strides in this area (co-operativebank.co.uk).