Feargal Quinn: Combining college with work experience is ideal approach
Solving the problems of small business: Email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
QUESTION I have a shop on the main street of a small town. The recession and two large shopping centres under NAMA control are ensuring that the town's retailers are dying on their feet. What should I and my neighbouring businesses do to fight back?
You have answered part of your own question already ... fight back.
All too often as I travel around Ireland filming RTE's 'Feargal Quinn's Retail Therapy' series, I meet retailers who face the same challenges.
During the boom times many retailers lost their good old-fashioned merchant retail skills, as business was plentiful and customers were spending strongly.
Now it's time to revisit that tool kit and become active. Look at the level of activity on the street ... run themed customer shopping events, offer free parking in your area, help refer customers to other shops with complimentary ranges nearby, brighten the street with planting schemes and street furniture, link with the local schools for projects, etc.
Many local authorities are keen to engage with retailers and will generally try to help if they can, so do make a structured proposal to them to enlist their support in whatever way they can help.
Most importantly, identify why your group of retailers are different and shout it from the tree tops to customers.
Many retailers give me examples of the real business growth they are getting by communicating with their customers through Facebook and Twitter etc.
Does your group have a social media strategy?
One of the biggest reasons customers desert a street is that they perceive it has nothing to offer.
I bet you and your fellow retailers have lots of innovative products, great promotional offers and staff with years of experience.
What you need to question is how good a job you are doing at communicating this. Several of the Enterprise Boards around the country are now providing retail development programmes that are designed to stimulate activity among retailers and up-skill them in the area of sales growth.
This could be a real help and a way to pull you and your fellow retailers together. Keep fighting!