July is Independent Retailer Month in the UK, a time when small, local business are highlighted for their contribution to their local communities and a chance for customers to show their support for shops and services in their area.
What is Independent Retailer Month?
It is a campaign which is designed to highlight small and independent retailers in local communities. In shining a light on independent retailers, the campaign aims to show the vital role they play in communities and how they contribute to their local economies.
Consumers are being asked to support independent retailers in their area throughout July. This annual campaign has come into sharper focus this year due to the hardship experienced by many small businesses due to the lockdown triggered by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
The organisers of Independent Retailer Month want consumers to think independent first when they venture out to do their shopping in July as some lockdown restrictions are further eased.
What Other Challenges Have Independent Retailers Faced in Recent Years?
There’s no denying that online shopping has had a significant impact on our high streets, and on independent retailers in particular. Shopping online is convenient and, in many cases, cheaper than visiting a small shop.
Therefore, small retailers have had to come up with more creative ways to attract custom while also relying on an element of local pride among their customers.
However, some long-established independent retailers have struggled to move with the times to survive.
How Have Independent Retailers Adapted to the Digital Age?
The coronavirus crisis had brought into sharp focus the survival skills of many retailers and for some small, independent traders, they have quickly had to learn the art of online selling.
Large online retailers such as Amazon and eBay have well-established supply and distribution systems, but for shops which have relied almost entirely on footfall, selling online is an unfamiliar concept.
However, social media platforms have played a big part in helping independent retailers get the word out and online payment systems such as PayPal have allowed these retailers to conduct contact-free delivery.
These practices, although born out of a crisis, can become more established going forward and allow independent retailers to branch out into other ways of selling.
Handling Cash in an Increasingly Cash-Free World
One area where small independent retailers have struggled is the surge in cash-free transactions. Many have been operating with the same payment systems for decades where cash is king and credit and debit card transactions have only incurred punitive banking fees.
However, with many of these fees and charges gone, and the introduction of contactless card technology and digital wallets, such as Google Pay, has allowed even independent retailers to level the playing field with bigger retailers. They no longer have to worry about bringing out the card machine for small transactions, meaning they can accept a wide range of custom.
Embracing Online Banking Technology
The shops of many independent retailers have been characterised by large, cumbersome tills with produce that shrill ring when opened.
Nowadays, though, many independent retailers are able to process transactions through a combination of payment software on smartphones and tablets and slim card readers which can be linked to mobile phone apps. This has ensured a much more streamlined process and one which customers find convenient.
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