So the question is – What did Mary Portas advise small retail owners at The Spring Fair?
I am going to try and relate to you the core of what Mary said, and some examples of how we have tried to implement ideas into our own shop since then. Please don’t take this as a “how to”, or that we are preaching “follow this and your business will be a success” – I mean how many times a day do you get spammed on twitter, email or fb with people claiming to have the answers? – you don’t need another. This is just the notes I took whilst listening to an influential and respected champion of the small retailer, and our take on things. We are not perfect, but we are willing to learn and to change, just like you. We have to do, to survive in this current retail atmosphere.
The first thing spoken about was how much retail has changed ( no s**t Sherlock), that the reasons our customers seek out the small retailer are because they expect us to be knowledgeable in our field, unique, offer a full experience and be judicious. I think most of us begin this way, otherwise we would not have started our own shops. However, when times are tough, maybe it gets a little lost, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.
Going forward, Mary was predicting that people would be looking to spend their hard earned cash on their homes, well being and connectivity – it’s that Hygge thing again, but it appears to be around for the long haul this one. So we need to apply this to our shops, but what does this mean?
Engage the senses of your customer as they walk by/into your shop.
- Vision – great window displays, make regular small changes to catch the eye to internal displays.
- Hearing – we now play music that relates to us not just a generic radio station in the background (yes we have our PRS licence).
- Smell – maggots are not a great smell, but we need them for the fishing side of shop. To counteract it I burn a small scented candle and let the lovely scents waft out the front door. Cleanliness of the shop is important too. (PS these are candles we sell in the shop and have noticed a real increase in sales since doing this.)
- Taste – free chocolate anyone? Yes we now have samples of the local made chocolate to share with our customers. On the pet side we have samples of dog treats too for our four legged friends.
- Touch – encouraging this customer to feel the products, hold the fishing pole, squidge the cushions, try the boots on. Plus we now have lots of wood shelving which is very tactile.
- Connect – just a simply hello will do. Don’t ask closed questions!! As soon as you ask “Do you need any help?” – the automatic reply is “No” – end of conversation. Introduce yourself, explain a little (key word) about your empire, then ask questions about them, get the conversation flowing, make them welcome and feel important.
Mary was also asked to predict trends for 2017, here are her top 5:
- Vintage – replica or genuine.
- Mid Century design.
- Succulent plants.
- Status Stories (goodbye status symbols).
- Cultural trend awareness.
Thankfully no Flamingos this year!
Finally, key words to remember you are small, local, niche and get your story out there!