Celebrate Local, Independent Retail Throughout July

There are over 169,000 independent retail businesses in the UK, equating to 92% of all retail businesses. From fashion boutiques and art galleries to convenience shops and DIY stores, independent retailers form a valuable and treasured part of many communities. They also form an integral part of local economies and contribute greatly to local employment.

Often it’s the independent retailers who provide a route to market for up-and-coming designers and producers. Retailers also need the services of many other local businesses – accountants, lawyers, shop fitters, electricians, decorators, printers… so they’re an integral part of the local economic eco-system.

A fantastic high street or town centre is made up of a good mix of both multiple retailers, the chains, independents and leisure, hospitality and services. The mix of shops, cafes, salons and other service providers would be uniquely tailored to the needs and wants of each local community and through providing a comprehensive offering to the community ALL retailers benefit.

Independent Retailer Month 2012

Well with that back-drop July is Independent Retailer Month. ANY Independent business that serves consumers – be they online only, market trader, shop-based or multi-channel – can take advantage of this global “shop local” campaign. Consumer facing businesses are encouraged to run events, promotions and activities throughout July to celebrate, with their customers, what they offer to their local community.

Independent Retailer Month highlights the important role smaller, local, independent retailers play in the communities they serve, the local economy they contribute to, and in the retail sector as a whole.

Why Independent Retailer Month was launched

Independent Retailer Month was launched to address growing international concerns about the homogenisation of our towns and the drain of customers from our local centres to out of town retail parks, shopping centres and online competition, the initiative aims to:

  • impact the independent retail sector globally with relevant support, expertise and insights

  • connect consumers and communities with local retailers, reminding them of the benefits of shopping local

  • engage small business organisations, networks and thought leaders to promote the importance of independent retail to the global, national and local economies.

What’s the background to Independent Retailer Month?

Independent Retailer Month was founded in the USA in 2009 by Kerry Bannigan, CEO Nolcha Fashion Week. Independent Retailer Month UK launched when, in June 2011, I received a call from Kerry inviting me to develop the UK arm of this global campaign.

Since that call in June 2011 we’ve done a HUGE amount. Our 2011 campaign was tiny in comparison to 2012 as of course it was such short notice. To summarise our key achievements:

  1. We’ve developed a unique launch conference, taking place on 1st July near Solihull, with content 100% tailored to the needs and wants of the independent retail sector www.independentretailermonth.eventbrite.co.uk

  2. We’ve been able to improve and increase our online presence for the benefit of the retailers – we now offer:

    1. UK Shops Directory where retailers can list their store, or ecommerce site, free of charge – www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/uk-shops

    2. “How to…” Guides – a range of topical and useful resources that are readily available for retailers to download – www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/ideas-resources

    3. Access to a stunning window poster and all of our logos so retailers can show their support and also pique the interest of passing consumers www.flickr.com/independentretailermonthUK

    4. Events listings so that retailers, groups of retailers and local business organizations who are planning promotions, activities or events during July can send us the details and we can promote them via the website www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/events/2012

    5. We’re repeating our “blog-a-day for Indie Retail” that was a great success last year with 31 guest blogs being written that will be published every day throughout July via www.retailchampion.wordpress.com

    6. Social Media – we have a #-tag on twitter – #IndieRetail as well as our ID – @IndieRetailUK. We also have a facebook community –www.facebook.com/IndependentRetailerMonthUK 

  3. We’ve engaged with a fantastic network of official supporters that include BIRA, FSB, ATCM, AMT, NABMA, NMTF and Skillsmart Retail (see www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/supporters and www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/supporters/campaign to see them all)

  4. We’ve done all this only as a result of the financial support of our wonderful sponsors –www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/sponsors

Independent Retailer Month Kick-Start Conference

To kick-start Independent Retailer Month there will be a fantastic launch event on Sunday 1st July. This day-long event, held at Cranmore Park near Solihull, features keynotes from award winning independent retailers, retail experts and 1-2-1 “ask the expert” sessions.

Designed specifically with the needs and wants of independent retailers in mind, it includes an exciting panel discussion with panellists representing Association of Town Centre Management, Action for Market Towns, British Independent Retailers Association, Federation of Small Businesses and Skillsmart Retail. Those who attend are guaranteed a great opportunity to learn from and network with a wide variety of retailers, experts and organisations whose remit it is voice their needs and wants right up to national government level.

Up to 200 retailers are welcomed on the day, and those who attend will get practical tips and advice that they can put into action in their own businesses immediately. In addition there will be plenty of networking time. You can read full details and register via www.independentretailermonth.eventbrite.co.uk .

How can Retailers get involved with Independent Retailer Month?

At the end of the day it’s over to you – the campaign gives retailers and consumer facing businesses “permission” to create as much excitement as possible around the month. I don’t know your customers and your local audience as well as you do, so can’t second guess what promotions, activities and events would work for you – you are only limited by your own imagination!

Speak to other retailers and consumer facing businesses in your local community – shops, cafes, stall holders, travel agents, opticians etc. Let them know about the campaign (if they don’t already) and discuss how, as a group, independent businesses in your area can work together to leverage Independent Retailer Month to attract more customers from the local community.

A few weeks ago there was 1 lone retailer in Ashbourne, Derbyshire seeking support of his neighbours… now about 20 plan to create a buzz in the town. That’s because 1 lone voice saying the right thing will be heard! Go for it!

Of course whatever you do you need to shout about it – get vocal about shopping local! Contact the news desk at your local newspaper or radio station, leverage the opportunity to get some PR. Remember that with all the focus on town centres and high streets, thanks to the government’s portas review, your local press should be interested to report on how businesses in their area are fighting back etc.

Just focus on re-engaging with the local shopper, drawing them back into their store, and by delivering a great shopping experience they can remind them about what fantastic smaller retailers are right on their doorstep. It’s been said that it takes 6 weeks to create a habit – so with the whole of July to engage and inspire customers to shop local again you’ll be most of the way to helping them form a lasting local habit!

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