Yesterday was the launch event for Independent Retailer Month 2012. I had created a conference, something similar to the corporate events, unlike most of what is presented to the smaller businesses. I’d like to just share a little bit about how it went and remind you of what’s planned for the rest of July…
Independent Retailer Month UK 2012 “Kick-Start” Conference
Yesterday just under 100 independent retailers and organisations that support and service independent retailers gave up their Sunday to launch Independent Retailer Month UK 2012.
It was nerve racking – I’d never done this event before, for this kind of audience, at this venue. But I didn’t need to worry… It was amazing. People were SO eager, positive, passionate and excited to be there. I’ve NEVER seen a room full of strangers network so readily, I’ve never seen so many positive comments on twitter from an event before. It’s fair to say that whilst I’d obviously have loved for more people to be there it was a roaring success.
A morning of inspiring indies and internet opportunities
We did have the most inspiring of speaker – the day opened with Paul Turner-Mitchell from 25Ten Boutique in Rochdale telling his story of how, by rallying the support of all the other traders in the town, he’s been able too make a huge difference to their lot.
Following Paul was Rob Finney from Cybertill – he shared how even smaller retailers can have access to top-notch EPOS systems that can save them huge amounts of time, cost and effort.
Then it was morning coffee – and so the buzz began… people wanted to talk to each other, to share experiences and enjoy meeting people just like them. This doesn’t happen so much at other events – trade shows are focused buying trips, local networking only connects you with those in your area without the national view.
Chasing everyone back into the theatre it was the turn of Deryane Tadd to wow the audience – she owns multi-award winning indie boutique The Dressing Room in St Albans. Her talk showed how even a single store retailer can compete with the best of the best and she gave a huge amount of food for thought to the audience.
Andrew Rayner of e-mphasis followed Deryane, explaining the massive opportunity that can be leveraged when retailers consider location as a key component of their internet marketing strategy. Andrew was followed by the Gold Sponsor – MoPowered who in turn explained that mobile commerce was well within the reach of even the smallest of online retailer.
The pre-lunch sessions were summed up as follows: “In the Portas Review we were told that the internet and mobile were a threat to the high street. If you use the technology effectively it certainly is not a threat, it’s an opportunity”
Lunch was served and what a spread there was – a stunning array of chilled salmon, cooked meats and a rainbow of salads too. That certainly was very well received!
A panel of people who are there to represent the voice of smaller retail businesses
A high point of the day was the panel, straight after lunch, where the audience heard from BIRA, ATCM, AMT, FSB and Skillsmart – all of whom are official supporters of Independent Retailer Month.
We discussed the obvious issues – rent, rates, parking, planning. We heard about sources of finance and about successes with lobbying activities. We talked about portas pilots…
The summary from the panel was 2-fold:
- Pop-up shops can be great, but better still are pop-up and stay up shops!
- Perhaps the real winners from the Portas Pilots are the town teams that have the passion and vision and carry on without the cash, NOT having to deal with the politics and dramas that seem to be associated with those who did get the cash!
How retailers can sell through social media
After the panel Warren Knight blew our minds with advice about how to sell through social media, even if you don’t have ecommerce – there were lots of people wide-eyed and scribbling notes. Then we heard from Sarah Decent of Modish, and she too extolled the virtues of social connections, then shared her story of how she handled a store opening, closing and rebranding exercise in the space of 1-week.
After that food for thought it was time for afternoon tea – and the scones with jam and cream were just the ticket!
Focusing on Retail Success
The last sessions of the day included talks from Aspire Property Group who shared hints and tips for successful rent and rates negotiations. The it was the turn of Nigel Rothband, Chief Executive for Retail Trust – he received a standing ovation (you needed to have been there to get the joke ;-)) – he explained that Retail Trust is a charity for ALL people in retail and the benefits for any small retailer are significant. After Nigel, Stefan Topfer, founder of WinWeb explained Cloud Computing and if anyone knows about this subject Stefan does.
The day was nearly over, and it was now my turn, I shared the 10-steps to retail success methodology with the audience, I also gave a shameless plug for my book and offered a signing straight after… It was a combination of relief and excitement that so many people wanted to buy one – and I really hope they enjoy it!
What now for Independent Retailer Month?
For the rest of the month retailers and communities are running promotions, activities and events to engage their local consumers. To find out more see www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/events/2012
We have the blog-a-day for Indie Retail – 2 have already been published – there is a dedicated blog for this now – www.independentretail.wordpress.com
You still have time to download our posters from flickr – www.flickr.com/independentretailermonthuk and if you want really high-res let me know and I’ll get you access to those via dropbox.
And there are loads of free downloadable ideas and resources at www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/ideas-resources
So, have a really successful Independent Retailer Month 2012!