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Planning for the Future of Your Business – Part Two: The Community

Posted on 16 April 2013
The eighth and final section of ‘The New Shop - owners Guide to Security‘ follows on from part one of ‘Planning for the Future‘, and looks at how shop - owners can build solid and lasting community links and relationships…

People who have been involved in the retail industry for years know that they need to stick together during the economic downturn. Competition is always healthy, and makes for a productive environment that can see an area thrive; be it a city, town or village.

Regardless of whether or not shops are in direct competition with each other, a great community spirit can definitely help shopowners out in these times of tightened purse strings. By working together and supporting each other, it can really promote a town and get the customers coming back. And as local shops are a vital source of employment, offering more than 372,000 jobs across Britain, they need to be protected and continue to grow.

Building Your Presence in the Community

Opening a shop can be extremely daunting, especially if you are new to the area, but there are ways to make an instant connection with the community, and that is to make your presence felt right away by visiting the local shops in your area and introducing yourself. If you do this right away, there is a very good chance that you will be accepted by the community.

Some businesses give discounts to other local businesses, which is another great way to build lasting relationships with the community. There won’t be too many people with a bad word to say about you if you are helping people out. If you don’t want to give discounts, then just being involved in events like charity fundraisers or showing your face at local meetings is a good way of enhancing your reputation. As a business owner, you have a responsibility to the area you operate in.

Maintaining Relationships With Your Peers

One great way to maintain relationships with other local businesses is to keep a close eye out on what is happening in the area. Just like the Neighbourhood Watch do with homes and neighbourhoods, reporting anything untoward to the police and local businesses is very important. If they know that you are looking out for them, it is likely that they will do the same in return. This could be anything from shoplifters operating in the area or any criminal damage that has taken place.

Reaching out to The Community

With the rise of the Internet not ever looking likely to wind down, using social media to connect with the customers out there is increasingly important. It certainly isn’t for everybody, and there are still ways to connect offline – including with leaflets, newspaper advertisements and by holding in-store events and special offers.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Pinterest are the five biggest social networks, and although it may seem daunting to some, they are quite easy to use. Twitter is especially useful for businesses, as it allows you to converse with people and potential customers. Facebook has over a billion users, so having a business page on there is a very good idea. Think of them as an interactive version of the Yellow Pages back in the day!

You could also consider having a website created for the business. It isn’t too expensive or difficult to step up these days, and you don’t need to be a tech genius to create a solid website. The online world is a great way to reach out to people who may not find you otherwise. Let’s not forget, online shopping is a giant industry, so having an eCommerce website could be financially beneficial as well as a great way to connect with your customers and the community.

Building a Relationship with Suppliers

Your suppliers have a direct effect on your business, from the quality of the products to the price of the products, and this ultimately reflects on your customers and the strength of your retail business. If you are overpriced or the quality is not there, you simply won’t survive in this economic climate where customers are more careful about where they part with their cash.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a green grocer, convenience store or a boutique clothing shop, your suppliers are key to your success. It is the responsibility of the shopowners and the staff to be friendly with them and pick their brains about the products they are supplying, as the more knowledge you have about a product, the more likely you are to be able to sell it to the customers that come through the door.

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