Leading independent retailers share their top tips on creating the ultimate shopping experience.
Lisa Fox, store manager at Sheffield independent department store Sanderson’s
At Sanderson’s, we make sure each department offers its own unique experience, but that we work together to create an overall lasting impression. Our prom package, for example, offers our young female customers an exclusive deal across beauty, fashion, footwear and accessories, boosting their total in-store experience.
This is further enhanced by our ‘friends of Sanderson’s’ loyalty card. We like our customers to feel like they are our friends when visiting the store. We use data from their cards to offer them personalised deals and events.
Events are a huge part of our experiential offering as they help to create an atmosphere for customers and staff alike. We recently held a dedicated event with British lifestyle brand Barbour, where we invited customers to meet the team, learn more about the collection and receive exclusive offers.
Sanderson’s is a family-run business, so we have full control and can react at any point – be it an event in the local community, retail market or worldwide. We have a weekly inter-departmental management meeting where we look at what’s happening that week and then tailor our plans accordingly. Being an indie gives us the freedom and flexibility to surpass our customers’ expectations.
Kalkidan Legesse (right), creative director at ethical fashion retailer Sancho’s in Exeter
Sancho’s specialises in ethical clothing, so part of our experience is identifying how these values overlap with other aspects of our customers’ lives, such as ethics, equality and mindfulness.
We do this by creating a totally holistic experience in store to reflect the mood and values that we share with our customers. This is achieved through ethical fashion posters and other decorations, and us promoting wider industry campaigns such as Fashion Revolution and International Women’s Day.
Experiential retail is all about our relationship with our customers and making sure that it is as real and honest as it can be. Whether that’s by interacting with customers one-on-one, offering them a totally unique and personalised experience, or ensuring staff are happy, fully trained and invested in the company. What matters is that the relationship is as authentic as possible.
Having a physical space (rather than an ebusiness) allows for that, and to communicate our brand through our own, very personal world. This is often where indies can triumph over bigger retailers.
Deryane Tadd, founder of St Albans womenswear store The Dressing Room
For me, fashion retail has always been about creating an environment that is fun and brings an element of lightness to someone’s day.
Most people don’t need more clothes, so it is our job to turn shopping into something more than that. Offering styling, drinks and a friendly chat as part of the normal shopping experience ensures that customers leave happy and with a desire to return.
We also collaborate with brands through in-store activities and our meet the maker initiative. As well as giving customers the chance to meet the designer, we create a dedicated in store pop-up that promotes their brand through a dedicated merchandised area, email campaign, gift with purchase and social media coverage.
Indies often have the advantage that we don’t need to go through lots of red tape so can be more imaginative and react to trends immediately. It goes to prove that you don’t need big budgets to offer fantastic experiential retail, but you do have to give it your all.
Offering customers something extra is imperative in today’s age in order to survive – especially in such a crowded marketplace.