How to celebrate Independent Retailer Month with style this summer

10 July 2023, 14:00 PM
  • With Independent Retailer Month in full swing, we find out how fine food businesses can join in and share the value of indies in the economy
How to celebrate Independent Retailer Month with style this summer

Independent Retailer Month is all about embracing the charm and authenticity that comes from shopping at locally owned and independently operated businesses in the community. It’s an opportunity for indie delis, farm shops, cheesemongers and food halls to really shout about their credentials and showcase the benefits of keeping it local and independent.

The importance of independent retail

With shoppers still concerned about inflated prices and high bills, they have been flocking to discount retailers. But independent retail is the life and soul of the great British high street and rural communities, and communicating this is essential.

As Tina McKenzie, policy chair at the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), explained, “Independent retailers are the soul of our high streets and city centres, with their expertise, excellent customer service and great value products filling niches in ways that the big players just can’t match.

“The independent retail sector helps keep prices competitive, offering more choice to consumers, and vital sales outlets to producers, many of them UK-based.”

Indeed, according to Andrew Goodacre, CEO of the British Independent Retail Association (BIRA), “Independent retailers play a vital role in the high street and the British economy. They bring uniqueness, character, and a personal touch that cannot be replicated by larger chain stores.

“These businesses create local jobs, support local suppliers, and contribute to the overall vibrancy of our communities. Their success is crucial for the diverse and sustainable growth of our economy.”

They play a key role in the community, as Emma Mosey, owner of Yolk Farm and Minskip Farm Shop and chair of the Farm Retail Association (FRA), added, “Independent retailers, particularly farm shops and farmers markets, often sell local produce and products, which means that their supplier payments often remain in the local area. They are also a key employer particularly in rural areas and offer diversity and uniqueness to our local landscapes.”

Of course, the way consumers shop has changed, but this isn’t a negative for the independent retail sector. As Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, explained, “According to research from The Economist, consumers want access to more outlets that they can walk to, with household walking rates increasing since the pandemic – this is something independents can play a much greater role in.”

Celebrating Independent Retailer Month

Independent Retailer Month provides a key opportunity for fine food retailers to communicate all the positive factors they offer for the community and British economy as a whole.

As Tina told Speciality Food, “Independent Retailer Month is a great opportunity to remind the public of the value of locally owned shops of all kinds, especially in the food sector. If you want a pot of honey from the fields in the nearest village, a cheese produced a few miles away, or specially imported delicacies, an independent shop – be it a deli, a cheesemonger or other specialist, or a farm shop – is easily your best bet.”

Really shouting about these products is a great way to communicate this to customers, and according to Emma Mosey, “We can use messaging about what makes our specific business unique – farm shops in particular often have a great, honest story about the source of their produce, and often genuinely make many products from scratch.”

“Shop owners could hold a special event to mark the month to showcase their wares – a great way to raise awareness of what’s on offer. See if there are any local events taking place which you could use to sell your products and promote your shop, too,” Tina added.

It’s all about showcasing the unique produce you sell, and adding that personal touch to every interaction or sale. “They can organise special events, tastings, and promotions to highlight their offerings and engage with the local community. Collaborating with other independent retailers and sharing their stories through social media and local publications can also generate excitement and awareness,” Andrew suggested. 

“Engaging with customers through loyalty programs, exclusive discounts, and rewards can incentivise them to choose local businesses. Collaborating within the local community and participating in local events can also create a sense of community pride and loyalty.”

For rural farm retailers, according to Emma Mosey, “The best way to ensure continued trade is to offer great service and unique products which cannot be replicated elsewhere. 

“As farm retailers, we have such a great opportunity to do this, as so many of us are selling our own produce and that of other local independent businesses. If we communicate this in the right way to the customers, and follow through on our quality offer, we are sure to gain and increase customers.”

Emma Jones suggested retailers can, “Raise awareness by speaking to local press and inviting them in for a photoshoot with other local businesses nearby and developing some eye-catching social media posts to make sure everyone knows what’s going on.”

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