- Written by James Crabtree, head of fashion at Associated Independent Stores (AIS)
“It goes without saying that retail is facing a difficult climate at present. The ongoing effects of the cost of living crisis are being felt far and wide, with a reduction in consumer spending power having a knock-on effect on retail sales.
“While all channels have been impaired by this, it is interesting to note that online sales seem to have suffered the sharpest decline in the past two years, falling from 37.8 per cent of total retail sales in January 2021 to 26.1 per cent this October, according to the Office for National Statistics’ latest retail sales data.
“However, this is not to say that consumers are no longer spending money. For this reason, retailers must now make a conscious effort to capitalise on sales through other channels in order to recoup this lost revenue. Given the swing away from online spending, driving footfall into stores is a high priority – with conversations with many of our members and brand partners confirming this.
“There are many reasons for the resurgence of in-person shopping, though a desire to ensure quality is a leading factor. Given that consumers now have less spending power, it makes sense that they want to assess their purchase in person before committing. As such, the primary objective of retailers should be to attract customers to the store, as this will often generate sales after the fact.
“Offering exclusive in-store deals has long been an effective method of driving footfall, and the value of an enticing window display simply cannot be understated. Moreover, many of our members have had great success creating a positive customer experience with in-person events, such as inviting artisans in-store for demonstrations and hosting beauty and fragrance loyalty customer evenings. Having a calendar of events can help foster a sense of community, which is great for establishing repeat business.
Continuing within this vein, it is imperative that retailers attend trade shows, as they have never been more important given the current climate. There are many benefits to attending exhibitions, whether it’s to scout for new brands, curate range selections or simply to touch and feel the product again. AIS’ own INDX shows, for instance, are cultivated by buyers for buyers, with a focused selection of trend-driven products, featuring exclusive lines and show only and members-only discounts.
“INDX shows are ideal for networking and establishing new business relationships, with dozens of orders placed at every event. All products are presented in a professional showroom environment to create the ideal buying experience, including complimentary refreshments, restaurant-quality food and free parking. With a variety of industry insiders also in attendance for every show, independent retailers can ensure that they are kept at the sharp end of any significant industry developments.
“As a member of an organisation such as AIS, retailers can also ensure that they have leverage and influence in an industry which is dominated by large corporations. Using collective buying power, independent retailers can secure stock of in-demand products at discounted prices through being part of a buying group, which they would otherwise not be able to do.”
Find out more about INDX Woman here.