You must box clever to compete with international rivals
QI am a small business and finding it difficult to compete with some of the big international players. Can you give me any advice?
While Superquinn had 22 shops, it was a small operator compared to some of the international retailers here. We were always concerned that consumers might believe we were uncompetitive because of our size.
Very often, our small scale worked to our advantage. Our suppliers very often had small quantities of promotional items left over, or items where the branding and packaging was about to change that they needed to shift off quickly. They couldn't go to our bigger competitors as they simply didn't have enough volume to satisfy them, however our small scale made us perfect for this. We made sure the supply industry knew we were receptive to it.
We also tried to box clever. On one occasion when one of the international retailers had slashed their prices to much fanfare and media coverage. I was asked to do an interview for the main news as all the other retailers had declined. I took up the offer, which I insisted be done in the fruit and veg department in our Blackrock store.
I rang some of our key fruit and veg suppliers and asked them would they support us with some exceptional deals and we made sure that in the area I did the interview there were some phenomenal value on display behind me. We got eight minutes on the national news and our sales jumped by 15pc that week. We simply couldn't have bought that type of advertising.
I also recall one of our retailers on 'Retail Therapy' having a strong reputation with suppliers for being able to sell large quantities of end-of-line stock even though he had a very small shop. One famous story involved a well-known confectionery brand ringing him in a panic and offering him a truck-load of Easter eggs for 20 cent each. The very next day the truck arrived and he lined the pallets of eggs up outside of the shop on the pavement, put a till outside the front door and sold every last one and made a nice profit. My message is that being small does not mean you are uncompetitive. You just need to box clever in order to outsmart the bigger guys.
QI am keen to freshen up my shoe shop. I am on a tight budget, so any cost-efficient tips would be welcome.
ADuring the three years that we filmed the 'Retail Therapy' series, many of the businesses that participated were in a similar situation. Business was tight, and they had little revenue to invest. They did, however, recognise that to keep a retail business successful, you must continue to evolve.
One of the simplest things you can do is to bring in a lighting expert. The advantage of LED lighting has now made it much more cost-efficient to run lighting systems. An electrician might not be the best person to give the advice - you need an expert on lighting which is a different person.
The other cost-efficient step would be to employ the visual merchandiser to train you and your staff, and to give you some cost-efficient tips. I visited a retailer recently who had some very fine retail units. These were made from dark wood which gave a very old-fashioned look to what was otherwise a very modern shop. With careful choice of paint, three days later it was like a brand-new shop, enhanced with a new LED system. Pay attention to the building's exterior as very often that can send out a signal to the world outside that things are changing, and it may be worth their while to pop in.
You don't have to invest a fortune in any of these steps and if you keep at the back of your mind the overall plan is to create a sense of change and excitement, this will help you reach your objective.