<b>Q: Does involving the local community in your business make any difference? </b>
A: Absolutely yes. For over four decades I encouraged store managers to get involved in their communities and it was one of the reasons that helped Superquinn stand out. Furthermore, we empowered our managers to make decisions on these activities and it was not controlled from Support Office.
There is an endless array of great examples I could give you but here are a few highlights. Recognising higher sales of many branches in their pet food section, the manager of our Knocklyon store teamed up with some local vets, a number of the big brand owners from the pet category, etc.and organised a giant pet day with advisers on how best to care for your pet onsite. Local vets gave health advice for customers' cuddly friends and there was a competition for best presented pet. I recall arriving in the car park around 2pm on a Saturday to find over 300 people enjoying the activities. What a great event!
We had Bonny Baby competitions, haunted houses in our car parks for Halloween, and staff got involved in local clean-ups and an endless array of other community-focused events.
It was our way of giving something back and keeping the shop very much at the centre of local activities.
If a business is trading within a community, then it should play an active role in supporting that community and being part of it. You will only achieve this if you empower your local managers to do that.
Q: Can independent retailers survive against the threat of online?
A: Indeed they can. I have no hesitation in giving you this answer. There are so many things that independent "bricks and mortar" retailers can do that online can't.
It is not possible to touch an online product, it is not possible to smell it or it is not possible to taste it! Far too many independent retailers are obsessing about going online when in fact what they should be doing is excelling at their retail operation.
Retail is all about experience. It is also about getting expert advice from staff and it is about the intimacy of engaging in the sales process.
While I recognise that there are many product categories that suit consumers shopping online, traditional retailers can still carve out a clear point of difference.
I recently met an independent retailer who was excited about starting online. When I asked if he had a range exclusive to his business, his reply was no. When I questioned whether he would be cheaper than everyone else he also replied no and then, tongue in cheek, I asked him why he was going online and his response was telling: "Well everyone else is going online and I felt I should be there."
That's the danger in today's environment that people go online because they feel they should be seen to be there. If developing an online strategy for your business is the right thing to do, then embrace it, however, only after careful consideration and strategic review.
Make sure that your traditional model is top of its game before you embrace new projects.
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