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Build on the strengths of bricks and mortar

I was listening to Andrea Levy, author of A Small Island on Desert Island Discs recently and she was talking about the hard times she has had and, as a result of getting through them, how she now stands two inches taller.

I was listening to Andrea Levy, author of A Small Island on Desert Island Discs recently and she was talking about the hard times she has had and, as a result of getting through them, how she now stands two inches taller. What a great analogy. This got me thinking.

Let’s face it, this has been the toughest season for retail, and independents have been particularly affected with so much discounting on the high street, and the added competition from online. Many of us have now gone transactional but how are our bricks-and-mortar stores going to shine again?

I am extremely optimistic about the autumn 11 season. Many of our customers are already asking when the new collections are arriving, which is very encouraging. Independents still have a place if we stand tall and focus on three key essentials:

  • Exceptional service makes our customers come back again and again. It is all about making the experience really special.
  • Alongside our established key brands, sourcing new labels is vital. This means supporting young designers, giving them a unique opportunity to showcase their incredible talent and giving real personality to the store.
  • Then there is marketing. With the web and social networking an essential part of our marketing strategy and everyday lives, how much do our customers really want to be involved? We need to address what is acceptable and what is downright annoying.

Although online business is very important at bringing in turnover, I am focusing on my bricks-and-mortar store. This is where we know we really shine.

So let’s put the tough times behind us, stand tall – by at least two inches – and go for that feel-good factor, knowing we are great at what we do.

  • Janine O’Keefe is owner of premium womenswear independent O’Keefe in Esher, Surrey

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