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Indies form united front

By signing up to July’s Independent Retailer Month, indies are working together to win back shoppers.

The UK’s third Independent Retailer Month kicks off next week, aiming to raise awareness of local companies and increase footfall in town and village centres by helping retailers stay open and improve their network of fellow traders.

The latest initiative comes as footfall on the UK’s high streets and shopping centres continues to struggle, with both destinations reporting a decline in footfall during May. According to figures published by the British Retail Consortium/Springboard, 1% fewer people visited high streets compared with a year ago, while 1.7% fewer visitors went to shopping centres.

Clare Rayner, who founded the Support for Independent Retail Campaign in 2011, said indies needed to take the initiative.

“If they want to survive then they need to assume that nothing is going to change and need to be dynamic,” she says.
Rayner is calling on shoppers to spend 20% of their monthly budget with local retailers rather than in chains, out-of-town centres or online.

“This campaign is in its third year and it couldn’t be more important,” she says.

“Only last month it was revealed that the number of empty shops across the UK has hit an all-time high and the only way to try to stem further closures is for retailers to be proactive - not only remind customers that they’re here,
but to give them more reasons to visit.”

The campaign’s website provides retailers with access to a range of free resources, including posters and thank you cards for customers. “We are here to encourage them to do something that is relevant to their community because they are the best ones to decide what their customers need,” adds Rayner.

Thousands of indies are expected to participate in this year’s initiative with a range of activities including wine and canapé evenings - designed to appeal to the rising number of visitors to town centres after 6pm - and tea parties.
Other stores are running special giveaways, such as Oxford lingerie and womenswear indie Pure Marie, which is offering discounts for customers who recommend a friend for a bra fitting, or Edinburgh womenswear indie Eden, which is giving away goodie bags.

Contemporary womenswear indie Boudoir Femme in Cambridge has lined up a selection of activities and promotions throughout July including free gifts for customers, 10%-off offers and a competition.

Owner Pippa Sandison says she was looking to remind consumers of the “great customer service and sense of community” people can get when shopping closer to home.

Sandison adds: “The number of empty shops on British high streets has hit an all-time high this year, and the only way to stop that happening is for people to visit them and support them.”

St Albans womenswear indie The Dressing Room is also pledging its support to the initiative. During July the retailer will offer double loyalty points in store and online every Saturday. Every transaction will be entered into a prize draw to win a luxury goody bag.

Charlotte Phillip, store and website manager at The Dressing Room, praises the campaign. “With the way the high street is, it is important for indies to be supported by their local communities.

If everyone can work together it will raise awareness,” she says.

Story in Numbers

  • 1,000 Retailers expected to be involved in this year’s campaign
  • 1% Fewer people visited high streets in May compared with last year
  • 3rd Year of the initiative
  • 20% Of shoppers’ monthly budget asked to be spent at indies

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