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Going Independent on the High Street – Supporting A Local Shopping Experience

Mon 8th Jul 19

It’s little wonder that the government has recently launched its new High Streets task force, with announcements of shop closures and troubled stores still reported regularly. And with the latest stats from Eurostat suggesting that a massive eighty two per cent of shoppers are purchasing online each month, support has clearly been needed for some time.

That being said, new independent stores are opening regularly, and the sector seems to be doing relatively well, compared to its larger counterparts.

So, what makes the independent store more successful, what do you need to know if you’d like to open your own and, just as importantly, what can we do to support them?

The difference between independent boutiques and high street chains

High Street shopping has been on the decline for a number of years, with many different factors contributing to its demise. Yes, we can point at the rise of online shopping and a general disinclination to hit the ‘real’ shops as a result. But that’s not all that has made a difference. With rising business rates, higher wage expectations and a weaker economy, it’s become expensive to run a store – especially a larger one – in the town centre.

For independent shops, though, with lower staff costs and possibly even discounted rates in some areas, this hasn’t hit so hard.

The difference goes much deeper than OPEX though, as independent shops offer consumers something different for their customers – experience.

Creating shopping success from customer experiences

When it comes to enticing customers out of their armchairs and into the town centres, experience will do it every time. Experience doesn’t need to be expensive or hard to implement and it can be collaborative with the retailers in your area, too. Whether you’re offering free (good) coffee for people to enjoy as they browse your merchandise, a comfy seating area, with fun distractions for little ones while parents shop, or a themed shopping evening or other event. Community is key.

Actually, in Ipswich where Ryan’s is based, our Saints shopping area does this very well, with regular street markets, fashion events and more, all enticing people into the area.

So if you’re looking to open an independent shop on the high street, as well as the usual market research, looking at your location, competition and the commercials (take a look at our guide to starting your own business for more), it really does come down to what you can do in a bricks and mortar store that an online retailer can’t. Do remember, though, if you’re planning something a little different, it’s a good idea to chat through any insurance implications with your broker beforehand, to make sure you remain covered.

What is the High Street Task Force?

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, announced the High Street Task Force in the 2018 Autumn Budget, alongside measures on planning and business rates, as part of the government’s £675 million strategy to support retailers and revive Britain’s ailing town centres.

The Task Force, which is made up of retail experts, will provide advice and guidance to retailers on how to make their businesses more experience focused, helping them to attract customers and to act on changing consumer expectations.

The government is also encouraging businesses to submit applications to win up to £15,000 for their local community as part of the Great British High Street Awards, which are open now until 11 July 2019.

Supporting independent retailers

Supporting independent retailers really does make a difference to your local economy. As well as creating a great community spirit, shopping locally helps to keep local people in employment, and the money you spend locally, is likely to be spent locally, too. What’s more, many local shop owners – not all – try to source at least some of their stock from the surrounding area.

In an era when reducing our own carbon footprints and buying more ethically, to help eradicate poor pay, unsustainable sourcing and the use of plastics, are all top of mind, buying locally helps to ensure we’re being more ethical in our purchasing, too. Allowing us to ask questions and get answers that help us feel more at ease with our buying decisions.

Insurance and your independent shop

If you’re planning to open an independent shop and need to know more about the insurance products that are right for your business, or if you already have a store but want to know more about insurance for events at your store, please give our Enterprise division a call on 01473 343491.

From your property and contents cover to your employers’, product and public liabilities and your seasonal increases, events and other customer experience plans, we can advise on the most appropriate covers for your unique business.