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When your business is small, local and bespoke, you are able to roll with the economic punches.
When your business is small, local and bespoke, you are able to roll with the economic punches.

5 Major mistakes independent retailers should avoid


Issued by Red Ribbon Communications - Feb 25th, 14:35

There is a lot to be said for being an independent retailer in South Africa at the moment. When your business is small, local and bespoke, you are able to roll with the economic punches. You are agile, flexible and can adapt to absorb the impact of upheavals like a technical recession or a sudden shift in trends. However, as a small fish in a big pond, you also need to have your wits about you. 

Whether you run a made-to-measure fashion boutique, sports and outdoor enterprise, food and drink outlet, health and beauty destination, shoe store or bike shop, there are certain prevailing principles that apply to the successful management of an independent retail environment. The retail and inventory management experts from Vend have a few tips to share on common pitfalls that small businesses should avoid when setting up shop. These five major mistakes include:

Relying on a cumbersome old-school system
Your retail management system is the core of your business. When you’re relying on a cumbersome, old-school system that requires manual entries or won’t work when the internet is down, you’re setting yourself up for failure. What you need is cloud-based POS software that allows you to sign in anytime and work from anywhere, giving you access to your sales, products and reports even when you're not behind the counter or in the office. Ideally, this system should feature advanced tools - like inventory management and customer loyalty programmes - that are simple enough for your entire team to use across iPad, Mac or PC.

Not being able to report quickly & efficiently
When you’re dealing with shareholders and investors who have a stake in your business, you need to be able to report quickly and efficiently when they ask for an update on their investment. Choose an intuitive system that provides you with a wide variety of retail insights, so you can always be on top of your game. This way you will be able to go into as much detail as your shareholders require, and if they want to dig deeper and learn more about a certain facet of the business, you will be able to do that as well.

Ignoring the unique spatial needs of your shoppers
If you want your brick-and-mortar store to earn its keep, your space and retail attendants should appeal to the needs of potential shoppers. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in this regard - it all depends on the nature of your product and the personalities of your target demographic. This is where prior planning comes in. Know your shoppers inside out before you even as much as choose a location for your store. Then make sure that the ambience you create within your space speaks their stylistic language from the moment they set foot in the door, and train your attendants to provide seamless assistance from start to finish.

For example, if your store sells fast-fashion sunglasses, you may find it makes all the difference to keep your merchandise unlocked, so shoppers can try them on freely without having to ask for access. This type of clientele also responds well to younger shop attendants who encourage them to get creative with live videos and Instagram pictures in the store.

Not riding that all-important trend wave
If you prefer to ignore trends and stick to your guns despite an obvious shift in the preferences of your target demographic, you are pretty much dead in the water. A major part of the appeal of owning and managing an independent retail environment in South Africa at the moment is the shorter forward-planning models that allow for quicker adaptation to trend shifts and seasonal weather patterns. Use this to your advantage!

For example - heatwave in the middle of winter? Hold back on the deliveries of some of your winter stock and buy in some more summer gear to capitalise on the sudden need for short sleeves and open toes.

Not playing where your buyers play
Did you know that some South African businesses generate up to 80% of their online sales directly from Instagram? That’s quite the impressive statistic. It also means that you need to know where your target demographic hangs out online. Will they respond to a Facebook carousel or would you get better traction with local influencer campaigns? Find out where they hang out and how they like to interact with their favourite brands; then make sure that they are able to find yours without having to venture out of their comfort zone.

By sidestepping these pitfalls, you will be laying the groundwork for a nimble retail environment that will allow you to think on your feet and stay relevant in a time of unprecedented change and development. Get it done, and do it properly so you can put your creative energy to good use in other aspects of your burgeoning business. Then go out and carpe that beautiful diem!


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