Going home with the consumer
It’s a sad consequence of the pressures on today’s retail environment that when you look around the BHETA membership, there aren’t many of our supplier members who have not been impacted in some way by recent events at Maplins, and now more recently Homebase and House of Fraser. For some independent electrical retailers, it may be that competitors’ troubles are seen as having potential benefit. I think that for the majority, however, the overall economic uncertainty that the big names’ problems highlight outweighs any short-term gain. The most positive outcome for nearly everyone in the market is that bricks and mortar retail turns the corner and finds its way back into positive territory.
One of the most important topics, therefore is how best traditional retailers can make their environment especially appealing for customers again. How easy this is depends to a degree on what products are being sold. Commentators talk about ‘retail theatre’ where gorgeous enticing displays, sight, sound, smell and taste and real human interaction make a trip to the High Street a pleasure. The unassailable convenience and time-saving of online purchase can be counteracted by the appeal of a day out ‘destination shopping’. For retailers whose livelihood comes from functional ‘equipment’ purchase, however, shopping indulgence of this kind may not be quite such a realistic option. Having just returned from what was a very inspirational trade show by electrical buying group, Sirius, I can fully appreciate there are other very practical ways in which independent electrical retailers can set themselves apart in consumers’ minds.
Knowledge, advice and personal service in store has long been something in which indie retailers rightly take pride. Being able to explain the £100 difference in price between two coffee machines in terms of regularly used features and benefits is a real bonus for a novice consumer. Being able to demonstrate how to lift an apparently heavy vacuum cleaner so that its innate balance makes it surprisingly easy to carry up and down stairs is useful enough to a prospective purchaser to engender real loyalty. Asking the customer the right questions about their aspirations to smart technology – what signal, what power source, what compatibility, is it waterproof as well as voice-enabled – is invaluable.
In store demonstration, try before you buy, service and repair support, blade sharpening and part replacement all add to the sense of real customer service that an independent electrical retailer can achieve. Nowadays, according to the Sirius event, there’s an even greater opportunity, however. It’s all about fitting, installation and optimum set up in the customer’s home and the retailers who offer that – along with the potential added value sales – are the ones who will win the battle of the retailers.
For some shop owners, moving from selling appliances to whole kitchens and installing them is a viable transition. For others this may not be so practicable, but it is a fact that offering help with set up – even with relatively small devices; and especially with smart ones – increasingly clinches a sale.
For further details contact the BHETA Member Services Team on 0121 237 1130.