2018 is going to be a “big year” for independent retailers as smaller businesses begin to embrace new technologies, experts predicted at an event in London this week.
Independent Retail in 2018 event
“We see 2018 as the year of opportunity for UK independents,” said Dax Dasilva, founder and chief executive of point of sale provider Lightspeed, which co-hosted the Independent Retail in 2018 event with campaign group Save The High Street.
“Technology will make a huge difference for all businesses going forward, and independents are perfectly positioned to use that to stand out from the crowd.
“Simpler internal structures and business models mean that independents make decisions much quicker than their bigger corporate counterparts and there is more openness to try out new technologies and implement them in innovative ways. This will help independent retailers to continue to provide that unique customer service, that keeps customers coming back, whether they are buying online or in store.”
Bobby Lane, partner at business advisory practice Blick Rothenberg, agreed there are opportunities facing independent retailers, despite the challenges of Brexit, fluctuating exchange rates and unpredictable consumer demand.
He pointed out that earlier this week, the pound rose to £1.43 against the US dollar – suggesting “a lot of people are feeling better about Brexit”.
“Conditions are still uncertain, but the effect on the economy might not be as bad as first thought,” he explained.
Lane warned the biggest risk to independents in 2018 is falling demand, and urged them to look at new revenue streams – such as going online – as well as controlling their costs.
Dasilva agreed: “An omnichannel presence can no longer be ignored, and shop owners need to ensure they have a high-quality presence wherever their customers are interacting with them, be that online or in store.”
Lightspeed used the event to launch the results of its 2018 Consumer Trends Survey. It found that a retailer’s returns policy is deemed important by 92% of shoppers, who said it can affect their purchasing decision.
Two-thirds of consumers (68%) said they buy more when an online store has a good returns policy.
“As independent retailers face tough competition from retail giants, they need to consider their customer’s needs more than ever,” said Dasilva.