Local retail businesses continue to opportunity.
I remember reading Sam Walton’s autobiography and he thought retailers could use Walmart to their advantage. Walmart was often the center of blame for local retailers going out of business.
There was certainly a lot of that. But Walton also saw many retailers thrive. They would switch gears a little and sell what Walmart couldn’t or wouldn’t sell. Some would even move to a location closer to Walmart to take advantage of the influx of customers.
Local retailers certainly have competition from Walmart and Amazon. They also have competition against other local businesses. But there is still plenty of opportunity.
It starts with merchandise. That’s always #1 when it comes to retail.
But here are some other ideas to hep bring in more customers.
It’s never too early or too late for a local retail business to form mutually beneficial partnerships. It’s one of the best ways to get more customers through your doors.
Some partnerships are official with certain parameters. Others are more of friendly or handshake agreements. Some occur just because one local business owner loves another local business and feels happy to refer customers.
Local retailers could really benefit from connecting with restaurants, brewpubs and more. You share customers with these businesses, but really don’t compete.
Meet the other business owners and managers. Get to know them. Use their services. For the ones you like, ask about forming a referral partnership. Offer their customers a discount. Offer the owners free product so they can test out what you’re selling.
Local media still holds a lot of attention with much of the community. TV media is still big in local markets. So is radio. And while newspapers are closing everyday they still have some good attention. And there are a surprising number of local online blogs and magazines.
These media outlets are looking for content all the time.
Let’s say you’re a local vintage store. Figure out how to create tips that are valuable for potential customers. Tips for finding vintage clothing. Tips for cleaning vintage clothing. All kinds of things.
Start publishing this type of content. Then approach the local media outlets pitching the idea of you being a guest and providing tips. If it goes well one time approach them about making a regular thing. Maybe once a month or even once a week.
3. Community Involvement
Part of being in a local community is getting involved. With causes. With charity. With local events. Visibility leads to more customers walking into your store. It’s not easy to know if a customer is coming to your store because of community involvement. Most won’t necessarily remember that they saw you at a charity event.
But you can track growth over time.
Identify ways you can get involved in community events. Everything from charity to sponsoring local sporting events and all kinds of things.
Not necessarily sales events. The more discounting you do the more you attract discount customers. And it’s really difficult to go back to regular pricing after you have a sales event. People will just wait for the next big sale.
This would be events at your store that bring people in. Maybe you have a local band play in an area in your store for one night. Maybe even after the main hours. Or maybe you bring in someone to make free donuts for customers that come in on a Sunday morning.
Events are things that interest people. Things that they want to experience. It gives them a reason to discover your products when they aren’t necessarily looking for what you’re selling until they see it and realize they need or want it.
5. Content Marketing
Content marketing can work great on a local level. It’s often thought of as something for a national or even global brand. And that’s true, but many people are looking for local-specific content.
Even social media is great for reaching local people.
Whatever your channel – blog, YouTube, Instagram, etc. – make sure you’re focusing on the content people want. That usually means educational or entertainment. Or both.
One trend that could really take off in the future is branded local news content. Newspapers are having to fire their reporters. These reporters are great, but the newspaper business model doesn’t appear sustainable anymore.
As a business owner, you don’t necessarily need to make money from subscriptions or advertising. Host all the content on your own site. Share it on your social media. Hire the reporter to do the same job. It will attract local attention because people still want the content, just not from newspapers.
Local retailers have a lot of competition and struggle today. But there are also opportunities. The biggest thing is always going to be merchandising. But after that the marketing is important. And the ideas here should help with the marketing efforts especially if you have a great product.