The Portas Pilots competition, launched last week, is looking for innovative ways to revitalise high streets.
The Portas Pilots competition, launched last week, is looking for innovative ways to revitalise high streets. But there are many ways an independent chain can bring consumers back. And customer service, as a basic, is vital.
What consumers want is good service. They want their needs catered for and they want a happy shopping experience. Communication skills are key and if younger or newer members of the team don’t have anyone to learn from, how can we expect a good standard of service?
This week, our consultancy, Insight with Passion, is running an initiative called Retail Clinics in eight towns and cities in Yorkshire, to give free advice about tackling the issues they face. It’s my home county and the worst for empty shops.
The national average is 14.3% but in Yorkshire it’s over 16%. Why is this? The reasons are different in each town, but there are some common factors.
The recession is a massive factor. There is less lending and consumers feel squeezed. Shoppers are time-poor and stressed, and out-of-town shopping centres make it easy to get everything under one roof. Portas has highlighted the problem of car-parking charges and red tape.
These are huge issues that stand in the way of growth. Town centres need individual DNA. ‘Vanilla’ high streets with pound shop after pound shop aren’t going to excite anyone. Portas’s market days are a good idea, but we need to think more long term. We need a can-do attitude among independent retailers. There needs to be more collaboration with retailers working together to improve an area.
One retailer alone can’t tackle the economic crisis, but they can be the best they can be.
- Kate Hardcastle is a retail analyst and founding partner at consultancy Insight with Passion