Web slingers

Independents can counter online sales through thinking local and unbeatable service

02 Apr, 19

Owner and director of Park House Kitchens, Emily Rowland says independents can counter the onslaught of online discounting through thinking local and unbeatable service 

Web slingers 1

Online discounts are the bain of the high street retailer’s life, whatever you’re selling.

Heavy online discounting can’t be competed with and just isn’t feasible for an independent retailer who has the ever-increasing day-to-day running costs to factor in.

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But online sales aren’t going away any time soon, or ever. So it’s time to stop competing with them and focus on what you can offer that an online sale can’t.

Service first

Firstly, what sort of customer buys deeply discounted kitchens or appliances?

They’ll be budget-driven and probably hoping to do a bit of DIY, too.

But what happens if something goes wrong with that appliance, who do they speak to?

What if the kitchen units arrive and they are the wrong size?

While consumers may feel like they’ve found themselves a great deal, the long-term reality is that it’ll probably be more expensive if they find themselves ordering missing elements or returning items.

Independent retailers, especially in the kitchen and bathroom industry, have the luxury of offering a bespoke customer service, whether their customers are looking to spend £6000 or £60,000.

So if the new induction hob inexplicably doesn’t work, or the units aren’t quite the right size the independent retailer will be on-hand to not only guide the customer but to help if things don’t quite go to plan.

This can be at the time of installation, months or even years later.

This value-added service is an invaluable marketing tool.

It’s this extra mile that customers talk about to their friends and relatives and will create new sales though recommendations.

And no online special offer will ever be able to compete with that.

Think local

There’s no better time than now to play the local independent retailer card.

The uncertainty that comes with Brexit (which will continue into the next couple of years whatever the “deal”) means consumers will need more assurances about their spending.

By focusing on your local area and engaging in local community projects you’ll find that the results are reciprocal.

And, again, ensuring you are going that step beyond when it comes to customer service, local consumers will be more likely to spend their money on you rather than on a faceless online promotion.

Consider location

If you’re already doing the above to no avail then it may be time to take some more drastic measures.

With the decreasing numbers of people shopping on their local high street it’s worth asking the question “Does my showroom still benefit from being on the high street?”

With the rising cost of retail unit rents, it may be worth looking “off-grid” and taking the showroom where there is perhaps less footfall, but a much lower rent.

It’s not for everyone. But if you feel confident enough the reputation of your business could withstand the move, it may be worth looking into.

The savings you could make in your over-heads could make a drastic difference to your bottom line.

And being “by appointment only” not only gives the business a more exclusive feel, it also gives you more flexibility to your working week.

Read Emily Rowland’s view on how to tackle the big boys of kitchen retailing.