A survey by Which? has identified independent shops experiencing a revival on our high streets due to the high level of customer service offered by retailers. DIY and decorating shops having the greater success. This was considered a "surprise result" by Which?.
Hardly surprising to the many independent traders who work within this sector. After all they are constantly battling on the one hand to offer their knowledge and experience to customers, all the while running the risk that the customer will use that information to search the internet for a better price.
Independent business owners have an extraordinary wealth of experience. They are obviously passionate about their products and continuously researching new and exciting trends. Customers love the fact they are able to talk to someone who is genuinely interested in their home project, and who can think out of the box regarding any potential problems that may result. They are also able to offer alternatives to the mainstream decorating tools that are found in many of the big chains.
Decorating or designing for a customer is a very personal service. There are often home visits, or the retailer will spend a considerable amount of time with the customer discussing the ins and outs of their project.
The level of stock in a showroom does not come cheap. Wallpaper and fabric books all need to be paid for by the retailer, quite often they are committed to enter into "book clubs" to maintain an area of exclusivity. Showroom displays are not free. If you want to feel a product, see how smooth it operates, or just want to find something different - then that is where an actual shop supports the customer.
Many products come with a RRP . Still in this sector it is more common for a customer to want a discount. And again, even once gleaned all the information they want from an actual business owner, they say thanks very much- and go online to find a better price.
Of course the report does state that independents in this field are seeing a resurgence in trade. This is very hopeful for the vast majority of local shops. Many people may be aware of Shop Local schemes , the mantra of "Use it, or Lose it".
Recently there was some debate between independent owners as to how far they worked in terms of offering free advice and planning. The response was to offer as much as they could upfront in the hope that the customer would have some loyalty to the shop, grateful to have the infinite knowledge available to them.
Hopefully the confidence in the Which? report is infectious to the general public. The knowledge that independent businesses are beating the big boys in their own game and succeeding . A little shop offering a bigger service than the sheds or the internet.