Thanks to Covid-19, more and more of us have begun to shop locally, and experts predict the trend is set to continue – with 9 out of 10 people saying they will continue to do so even when restrictions are eventually lifted.
With high profile campaigns such as National Shop Local Week, Shop Here, Not There, Save the High Street and Totally Locally continuing to work tirelessly in favour of small independent retailers, the big boys are now taking action in order to compete. We take a look at some of the new initiatives national retailers are taking to think and act local, even though they’re not…
Websites go solo
Last week, Majestic Wine announced the launch of Shop Local, its new ecommerce platform that will give each of its 200 stores its own shoppable website allowing customers to browse and buy from their local store rather than Majestic’s national site. Each local website will show only what’s in stock at that particular store, and customers can click and collect or order for delivery directly. On the surface, this might appear to be a bit of a logistical – and brand consistency – nightmare, but Majestic are confident they’ve got it sorted and that the move will actually reduce the risk of orders going wrong due to national distribution issues (does it have a problem with that, we wonder?). Not just that, but it has the potential to drastically alter customer relationships by building more intimate connections, increasing loyalty and ergo… sales. Will others follow?
With six out of 10 social users conducting a local search via social every week, and two out of three Facebook users visiting the page of a local business at least once a week, it makes sense that retailers reassess their marketing strategies through a local lens. While the initial instinct of any marketing director may be to keep marketing central (keeps costs down and brand image consistent and intact), a more localised approach makes sense for agility and more tailored engagement – and social is one of the best channels to do it. Enter John Lewis, which has had real success with its #wearepartners Instagram account, handing over the reins to a band of its own employees to run their own social media pages. It means personal stylists, interior designers and beauty experts from individual stores can act as brand ambassadors in a more localised way, building up their own accounts and becoming influencers right in the heart of the communities of their store location. It’s an approach being considered by many other brands too, and it makes sense. After all, if you don’t take control of your local social presence, your customers probably will – and it may not be the way you’d like.
There’s been a flurry of big box retailers popping up on the high street with smaller formats over the last year, again in response to Covid as people stay local and shop local. Garden centre Dobbies opened Little Dobbies in Scotland, with two more sites in London planned, while Pets at Home has already captured the London high street with its new small stores in Putney and Camden and Homebase has opened its fifth small format store this year. But it’s Poundland that’s really causing a stir. The discount retailer has opened two new convenience stores on high streets in the North of England. And here’s the thing – the pricing model is the same as you’d find in a standard Poundland, but not the ‘doorstep convenience’ premium you might find in a local C-store. In other words, Poundland’s new convenience model poses what could be a real threat to independent local traders.
The impact of Covid does of course, mean many customers are seeking better value, but is it at the expense of putting local convenience stores out of business? We’ll watch with interest to see whether this new format takes off.
And finally… a crystal ball moment
The 15 minute city is increasingly on the UK agenda, the principle being that everything you need to work, shop and play is within a 15 minute distance walk or cycle of where you live. But what impact will this have on national retailers? How will they adapt themselves to this model to avoid extinction? John Lewis is reportedly already considering a new hyperlocalised format that will see it use its space in a multi-purposed way to cater to the specific needs of communities. Who knows, nursery in the morning, nightclub at night? We know of stranger things that have happened in retail…