Independents need multi-channel approach, claims eSellerPro chief

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As a campaign to highlight the important role independent retailers play within the retail sector gets underway, Keith Bird, CEO of e-commerce solution supplier, eSellerPro argues independents can compete with multiple retailers online

Independent campaign: fighting back

Independent campaign: fighting back

“High street retailing is virtually on its knees. The credit crunch has hit independent retailers harder than most. But this month sees the start of a fight back. Independent retailers up and down the UK are kicking off initiatives to celebrate the start of this year’s Independent Retailer Month (http://www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/). Now is the ideal time for these businesses to be exploring how they can not only ensure survival but also compete with the big boys.

“Month-on-month high street sales figures are painting a gloomy picture and, with online sales growth far surpassing its offline counterpart, independent retailers need to be thinking beyond the high street and start looking at how they can expand into new online marketplaces that complement their in-store sales.

“The technology and means to do just that have never been more accessible – and that doesn’t even mean having to invest in a flashy, expensive website, advertising or a costly marketing campaign. Independent retailers are increasingly turning to the likes of eBay and Amazon which provide the perfect platform to compete with big name brands on a level playing field. The low entry costs and broad support mechanisms offered by these channels leave retailers with minimal risks and a host of opportunities to reach millions of potential new customers.

“It’s not going to be easy however, and despite the launch of government-backed initiatives such as StartUp Britain designed to support British Enterprise, there’s still much more that needs to be done from the top-down to support the UK’s independent retailers. The recent update to the Consumer Rights Directive by the European Parliament for example, has clearly not been developed with the independent retail sector in mind. With the legislation stating online merchants will now have to offer consumers a two-week grace period for goods returns and provide additional information on each product, the move is expected to financially impact affect many independents that already operate on tight margins.

“Essentially, with the economic climate still challenging, independent retailers need to ensure their products are available when, where how the customer wants them – and that means broadening the range of markets they’re selling to, to support their high street outlets. A single-channel strategy can simply no longer suffice. It will be those independent retailers that take a multi-channel approach to reaching new customers that will be able to compete with the biggest of brands to become the face of tomorrow’s high street.”