What’s keeping businesses small?

Big_spenders_in_LaddsSaturday 6 December 2014 is Small Business Saturday in the UK. It’s an idea imported from the USA two years ago to encourage us to target our support at small businesses on at least one Saturday in fifty two.

Being a Saturday, it tends to limit scope for giving support to the retail sector. In Royston (North Herts – where I live) at 12 noon we’re organising a cash mob – our fourth – a semi-spontaneous ‘mass spend’ at a semi-randomly selected independent shop. Everyone spends £5 and the retailer also gets written feedback from members of the mob about what they like about the shop and what would make it even better (which should be like gold dust to them).

To extend the benefit of the cash mob to other shops I’ve been around town inviting independent shops to make an exclusive ‘today only’ offer for members of the mob – a discount, a free something when spending £10 or more etc. It should help attract people to the cash mob as well as boosting sales in the shops.

The different reactions from the 19 retailers I talked to were interesting and may say something about the current state of independent retailing in the average UK high street.

A couple of the shops signed up to the idea immediately – great, nothing to lose, we can offer a straight 10% off and yes – happy to put a poster in our window to promote the cash mob. A couple of shops ‘got it’ but it didn’t fit their marketing strategy – which is fine by me; at least they had a strategy!

The majority wanted to ‘think about it’ – some said they needed to get permission. One person was literally ‘minding the shop’ but she’d been at our first cash mob so she knew what I was talking about. Some wanted time to think of an offer (if I was them, I’d keep a couple of promotional ideas in my back pocket at all times) and some said they’d ‘get back’ to me, which I suspect means they won’t. Most agreed to at least put up a cash mob poster and we’ll see whether they do.

A few where suspicious of me (it might have been my silly Movember moustache…) as if to say ‘where’s the catch?’ But two responses stood out for me.  One was a shop owner who complained that the Christmas Fayre (in town the same day) would close the street to cars and severely cut their trade. The other said even offering a 10% discount would wipe out most of his margin. I don’t understand the first retailer – we were trying to help boost their sales! The second shop owner’s response is a sad reflection of what is probably a reality for many high street outlets these days.

So, on Saturday 6 December, support your local independent shop, don’t expect a discount, and be nice to them – it’s a hard world out there.

More on cash mobs at https://enterpriseessentials.wordpress.com/2013/11/22/cash-mob-happy and more on Small Business Saturday UK at https://smallbusinesssaturdayuk.com/


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