It’s all about customer service, experience, promotion and adapting to new trends and markets, if you want to succeed as an independent retailer in 2019 and beyond, according the manager of one of the region’s most successful indoor markets.
Small independents can provide a level of service and an in-store experience that cannot be replicated on-line, says David Harris, Manager at Middlesbrough’s Dundas Market which has had to reorganise and increase the retail space on offer to respond to demand and interest for its business units.
“It’s not all doom and gloom for retail in 2019. In town centres, with the right support from landlords and councils, there is still a bright future for independent retailers, but they have to work hard to stand out,” says Mr Harris.
“A personalised approach, special events, workshops, community spaces, new products and services based on customer feedback, each coupled with great service, add to the value which independent retailers offer,” he says.
“It’s positive face-to-face customer interaction which makes people return time and again. For example in Dundas Market, at his family butchers Danny provides cooking times and tips to help customers get the best of out of his produce and keep them coming back.
“At the Little Vegan Market, Matthew and Charlotte pass on their in-depth knowledge of new vegan products and tips for a vegan and zero waste lifestyle. They are so good at this that they were shortlisted for best Small Business in the prestigious national Vegan Food UK Awards 2018 only six months after opening.
“The Little Vegan Market has also helped our most established tenant Jean’s Kitchen, the café at the heart of Dundas Market, to adapt to the fast emerging market for vegan food, by working with them to create an everyday vegan menu to add their offer.
“Interstellar Comics, a long-standing market tenant, moved into one of our shop units last year and has created a focal point for the area’s gaming community by providing gaming tables and encouraging gamers to visit the shop and play for free during weekend and evening sessions.”
According to Mr Harris, promotion, especially on social media, is also key to success. “A good social media presence extends the customer experience and provides further interaction, as well as alerting customers to new products and offers from the business,” he says.
“At Dundas Market we promote all our retailers and service providers via Facebook and Twitter, but we find that those who also have a strong presence in their own right are most likely to have a broad customer base. It is a vital part of modern retailing.”
Space in Dundas Market is at a premium, but there are still opportunities for prospective new tenants. To help budding new retailers test their concepts, Dundas Market offers a small number of Enterprise Units from £60 per week, which equates to just £10 a day, on short term tenant agreements, as well as larger units on longer term contracts for more established and experienced traders.