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The survival guide for high-street fashion retailers

19th Mar 18 2:54 pm

To combat the falling in-store sales of non-food items

It’s a jungle out there for the high-street fashion retailers. Figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG showed in-store like-for-like sales of non-food items recorded the largest fall since records began at 4.4 per cent for the three months ending in December.

Once upon a time, fashion retailers looked to be the sole survivor of the high-street’s demise, as despite the growth of ecommerce in other areas of retail, shoppers still preferred buying clothes in physical stores.. Now high-street fashion is falling prey to pure-play online competitors, who are stealing a march thanks to sleeker and smarter digital shopping capabilities that better meet today’s customers’ increasingly digital-first shopping habits.

The same figures showed that these online retailers enjoyed a brighter performance, with their non-food sales coming in at 7.6 per cent. While online continues to grow, the shopping experience is being redefined. Now consumers are re-thinking how they want to use the different channels to shop in the most convenient way. Sometimes they want to do so online and sometimes in a physical store. As a result, we see the store changing and adjusting itself to meet consumer’s needs.

Many larger retailers are betting on the idea that physical stores must become ‘attractions’, luring in consumers with the promise of spectacle or just pure entertainment. This takes investment of both time and money, which not all retailers have at their fingertips.

Fashion retailing is in a state of flux at the moment as the battle between on and offline ramps up. It is essential that retailers embrace innovative new practices in order to avoid going under.

Automate tasks to free up your time  

The main step to survival in an overcrowded and tough market is making sure customer expectations are being met. With storeowners often having to take responsibility for wearing multiple hats, giving customers your full attention is not always possible. Technology is available today that can help business turn the tables, through providing the ability to automate monotonous and time-consuming tasks such as stock counting and reordering.

Speed up your processes

According to data from First Data UK, three-quarters of customers are only going to tolerate standing in a shop queue for six to ten minutes. Anything beyond that and you’ve practically lost them for good. That’s why it is essential for shop managers to understand the effect waiting times at the till will have on overall sales. A five-minute wait might seem like nothing when you are tied up processing sales at the checkout, but this is enough time for a customer to ditch their goods and head for the door, for good.  One way to curb the queues is by accepting mobile and proximity payments, which allow businesses to take payment from customers on the shop floor. As well as reducing the frustration that comes with queuing, such tools can actually help businesses encourage more impulse sales.

Capitalise on your independence

The large chains are always going to be tricky to beat on prices and stock numbers, but where independent fashion outlets can succeed is by hitting them where it hurts – in the personal approach you can provide customers that they can’t. A small fashion retailer can often be  a one-man-band. They are not simply the owner – instead their role covers a number of titles from Manager to Shelf-stacker. It’s all part of the job and for many it is a labour of love. However, as a result of taking on such tremendous responsibility, there is a high risk of both stress and exhaustion, which can be alleviated by the incorporation of some helpful software. Collecting data on how your customers shop, when they purchase certain items and what colour blouse sells the best can really help you bridge the gap between vendor and customer. Creating a personal experience is the benefit you have earned by working hard at your small business and this is something that the large, anonymous chains simply cannot compete with.

Tools also exist today that help store owners use their business and customer data to create more accurate sales and marketing strategies from season to season, and even personalising these right the way down to an individual. These same tools can be put to use picking up mundane tasks such as taking stock and accounting, allowing store owners to spend more time engaging with customers over products or getting to know them on a personal basis to encourage loyalty.

So, whatever the state of the Great British high street right now, you can rest assured that there are ways to make the most of your position as an independent retailer and keep from going bust. Whether you decide to use technology to get to know your customer better, to save time and avoid errors by automatically monitoring your stock or to speed up your transaction process, the technology is out there – and it’s waiting to be used.

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