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26 Jan 2021

Collaboration culture in local retail

If there’s anything good that came out of 2020 it has to be the Shop Small trend. Whilst it has, in many ways, been one of the hardest periods the retail sector has ever had to face, it has also shone a light on just how important local high streets are. With many of the major cities essentially closed for business and customers staying close to home, the power of local retail has not gone unnoticed as consumers re-evaluate their values when it comes to shopping.

Community first

One of these values is undeniably “community”. And it’s this that we’re here to talk about today.

We all know customers are looking for brands they can have a conversation with. They want to shop with the retailers that make them feel like they are part of something bigger. Whether it’s stocking eco-friendly brands or having an active and engaging social media presence, there’s no denying that customers want to be part of the story.

They also want to see their local communities thrive. And what better way to do this than by bringing something a little different to the high street.

Recreating social spaces

Socialising goes hand-in-hand with community and, pandemic aside, there is a clear shift in high streets becoming more social spaces, with consumers using their town centres for more than just shopping.

With many public services, like libraries and community centres closing, shops and highstreets have a real opportunity to reclaim that social sphere providing the natural epicentre for community activities.

This is where shops can really capitalise on the experiential side of retail and join together with another business that might not seem like the most obvious partner. You can also capitalise on the “buzz” created by combining two audience groups both on and offline.

Competing with the chains

Small shops and local retailers have long had tough competition in the form of chains. But with consumer values changing, the power of those big corporations is lessening. Again, it all comes back to that sense of community. Customers want to know who’s behind the product or business they’re buying into. And with so many indie shop owners running their businesses from the front line, small retailers have the human face that many big businesses lose.

What’s more, small retailers will know their products inside out, with knowledge and expertise that is unique to them; something that many customer-facing staff in bigger chain stores simply don’t have. Pooling this knowledge with other local businesses only helps to strengthen the high street or town centre as a whole, helping to drive footfall to each and every shop.

Some ideas to get you started

Collaboration can be as simple as sharing market insights or it could be as large scale as hosting a shopping event. We’ve got a few ideas to get you going (once lockdowns are lifted, of course): 

  • Team up with a local café to provide free or discounted coffee in your store. You could combine this with in-store product demonstrations or events to really drive footfall. 

  • Group together with other retailers to create a loyalty scheme. This could be a simple stamp card where 10 stamps entitles the customer to 10% off in any retailer taking part.
  • Arrange coffee mornings or closing time drinks with other retailers to network and share knowledge.
  • Host a “lock in” event and ask a local restaurant or caterer to provide refreshment

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