Do you recognise your high-street? by @dinahliversidge #IndieRetail

I was giving directions to a lost tourist last week and used the local, 100+ year old pub on the corner as a landmark. A look of confusion crossed his face as he asked “do you mean the Tesco store?”  Sure enough, the pub has become a “Tesco Express” in the last few weeks and reference to the Horse and Groom meant nothing to him.

How do you feel when you walk down your local high street?

As I left him I took a walk down my local high street and felt a sense of loss; loss of the local grocers and bakers, loss of the sense of community outside the local chip-shop (now closed); loss of the local shop-keeper who knew our names and favourite brand of chocolate (and kept some behind the counter on a Saturday morning for me).

Now, as I walk the short parade, I don’t recognise the empty shops as part of my community.  I feel threatened by the boarded-up windows and piles of free papers that spill through the doorways.  I have a sense of a de-valued neighbourhood that is out of my control.  I am in a place I no longer recognise.

Local retailers can take back their high-streets and re-create centres of their communities

Yet there are examples of local retailers taking back their high-streets and re-creating centres of their communities.  Hampton in Middlesex is a perfect example.  I was pleasantly surprised last month to find a new butcher, run by a young entrepreneurial couple, was heaving on a Saturday morning – just yards from a local supermarket.  I stood and watched for almost 20 minutes as they engaged with their clients, taking time to talk about their products and to give tips for the b-b-q.

I have always believed the saying “people buy from people” but the High Street (and internet) would seem to be proving me wrong at the moment.   I see now that “people buy from people they like”.  Whenever possible we would like to see our hard-earned cash benefiting people we actually want to succeed.  And never is this more the case than when we are being squeezed financially.

Make friends with your customers and they will come back

The opportunity this presents to the local, independent retailer is simple – make friends with your customers and they will come back.  Make time to engage with them, listen to them and what they want, and you will have the edge.  The “personal touch” may not be a Unique Selling Point, but it is a crucial one.

Taking action to create change in this cycle requires engagement with the local community on a new level.  Social media is a powerful tool which, when used to good effect, can start revolutions.  A revolution on the high-street can take place through Twitter or Facebook once the right people are engaged .  We are in danger of talking to our children about local high-streets as a thing from the past if we don’t engage communities to keep local products, local services and local businesses thriving.

As we drive to the hyper-markets and super-stores, passing the independent local stores on the way, we should consider the impact we are having on the landscape – of the economy and of the community.

This blog was written by business mentor and successful entrepreneur Dinah Liversidge. Dinah’s total belief that “there is no box” allows people to look at their goals in a new way and to be accountable for their results.  Her own experiences, and ability to overcome life’s challenges, inspire others to take action and her practical, doable approach will leave them with the tools to take action towards real change.

Dinah lives in West London with her husband, John and their daughter Hannah.  She is passionate about people, business, fast cars and chocolate.

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About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
This entry was posted in Blog-a-day for Indie Retail, Independent Retailer Month 2011, Service and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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