Through our work with sports retailers in the UK, we found that over 90% of independent shops have seen a significant drop in sales from 2018. Even seasonal sales have gone completely dry!
One of the main reasons independent retailers are struggling, along with the whole UK high street, is that customers are moving more and more towards online shopping. Most of the retailers we’ve spoken to also said that customers would come into their shops, look around, try on some kit, get advice, then go off and buy online.
There has been a very big shift in the shopping culture over the past decade or so, and retailers who are not going to adapt will continue to struggle or, worse, close down; and we can see a lot of painful examples on the high street of shops closing down every day.
The shift in shopping mentality is that the customer is expecting convenience, first and foremost. This convenience can be in the form of the timing of their purchase, how easy it is for them to make the order, looking around for different options, price comparison, etc. It is a myth that lower prices are the only factor that makes customers move to buying online, though.
So, when someone comes into the shop to try on a pair of shoes or to get advice on which wetsuit to buy, they may be just in the research phase of their buying journey and don’t necessarily want to buy there and then. They may also happen to be in the vicinity of the shop at the time, at a time of month when they cannot afford to buy straight away, etc.
When the time comes for them to make the purchase, which is probably not the time they are in the store, the retailer needs to have the tools to make it easy for the customer to actually buy from them and not elsewhere. How is this possible? Offer them convenience!
The first step in making it convenient for the customer to buy is to make sure they don’t have to come back to your shop if they choose not to. Their buying might happen a couple of months down the line, so even if you give them a piece of paper with details, they might end up losing it and/or they might actually end up forgetting what the product they chose was. In order to fix this, the retailer needs a proper e-commerce website, which includes all their products and makes it easy for the customer to complete their order whenever is convenient for them.
The second step is to ensure that the retailer doesn’t end up being “another online store”. The main advantage of a physical store is the service they provide to the customer; touching and feeling the actual product, trying it on, getting advice, equipment servicing, etc. The retailer should never forget that this is what differentiates them from online retailers. A bike shop, for example, can offer 6-12 months of free maintenance for a customer who buys a bike from them. Depending on the price of service, even if the bike is slightly more expensive than if bought via one of the large online stores, the customer may end up buying from you because of the added value you’re offering. Other ideas could also include discounts on future purchases and other such promotions to maintain an ongoing relationship with the customer.
A third, and maybe a more advanced step, and continuing with the customer relationship theme from the point above, is to maintain a proper CRM system. A customer relationship management system involves not just collecting information about your clients, but to make sure you’re offering them what is suitable for them and their needs regularly in a customised fashion. There are ways that make this process very easy and simple, even if it sounds like a daunting task.
A fourth, and final, step is to try and increase revenue sources online. Listing products on marketplaces, such as Amazon or eBay, should make it easier for the retailer to increase sales. Moreover, there are some specialist sports marketplaces which can list the retailer’s products, and these would be more targeted at their specific markets. We all know that customers, especially during seasonal shopping periods, tend to go online for ideas, so being on these platforms should mean that the retailer doesn’t lose more potential sales. And, worst case scenario: you get no extra sales. So, no harm in just listing the products online anyway.
Being an entrepreneur can be difficult, and having a business in a fast changing environment focused on certain niche markets, such as sports, can be even more challenging than normal. The way to stay ahead and not suffer is to be pro-active and make sure your business provides what the market wants at the moment. And, the above is our recommendation as to how this should be done for the independent sports retailer.
You can check out our service to fix these problems here: https://roundsquareventures.com/product/sports-retailer-online-solutions/