Critics who believe that the media only broadcasts messages of doom about the future of the independent retailer were pleasantly surprised on the first day of June when the Daily Mirror and the Daily Record featured happy and constructive stories about local family businesses. More than six million shoppers read about independents who are involved in their local communities in a constructive way – helping out, making a contribution and looking forward to a stable business in future.
Society is the loser when an independent store closes. The stories from the Mirror and the Record are a revelation in that the retailers involved, like thousands more, are community-heavy. This commitment attracts footfall. As one retailer said in a recent MSYS interview: “Why should my local community support my business if I do not share their interests and concerns about the local community?”
As professional and as successful as the giant retail corporations undoubtedly are, they will be the first to admit that their managers do not have the natural neighbourhood involvement emanating from ‘living over the shop’. And it’s not only ‘living over the shop’ is it? The owner manager makes their own decisions about everything – from product selection to staff attitudes to customers, time spent listening to customers and responding to what customers say.
The independent can, uniquely, design their own customer relations agenda according to local micro needs – in contrast the multiple manager is ruled by a distant head office with an agenda set down in the first place by even more distant shareholders.
? ANDREA TIDIES UP THE PLACE
For example, Andrea Bone, one of the Mirror featured retailers, owns The Brook Premier in Selly Oak, Birmingham. With her team she has strived to help rejuvenate the area, which is home to thousands of students. When they go home on summer vacation, the community struggles – Andrea believes more community spirit will help the council to attract more permanent residents to the area.
She works with the local school and the council on various community projects – one of which is helping to create a tidier environment. She launched a “tidiest front garden” competition!
? VIM DELIVERS AND CHATS OVER TEA
Vim Patel runs the Lifestyle New Cross shop in Wolverhampton. He was also featured in the Mirror. He knows his store is the venue for the only contact many elderly people have with another human being.
“I have one customer who lives at the top of a high rise block of flats. Some days she finds it impossible to get out – and she may have gone several days without seeing anyone. I will answer her phone call, take her shopping to her and have a chat over a cup of tea,” says Vim.
Is this type of relationship in a multiple managers’ job specification? It’s not the manager’s fault that it isn’t.
? SHAMI AND SAKI SAVE PO
Shami and Saki Ghafoor own a Nisa Today’s store in Gateshead. When the local post office was closed, they decided to buy the business and the local community is now so happy after living under the threat of losing it.
Shami and Saki believed that if the community lost its post office facilities a lot of damage would be done to the local community – it would have probably closed many neighbouring businesses too.
The pavement has been altered to allow for disabled access – just one more sign that the Ghafoors are in the business for the long term and determined to continue their community activity.
? DENNIS PROMOTES 5 A DAY
Customers of the Broadway Convenience Store in Edinburgh just love the way that owner Dennis Williams is promoting healthy eating – they don’t have to travel to a superstore to participate in the drive for improved health that is sweeping the nation.
Dennis is involved in the six items of fruit or vegetables for pound;1 promotion set up by the Scottish Executive. For NIW he held a local produce sampling day – and a fun day so it isn’t all health and no fun with Dennis.
He was featured in the Daily Record of June lst.
? DAVID AND KAREN HELP SCHOOLS
Husband and wife team David and Karen McDade own the local shop in High Blantyre, Glasgow. Over the years they have become an integral part of their local community.
They deliver free to local old folk, donate products to local school events and sports clubs – and they are on first name terms with most of their customers.
“We get called on to help local institutions and local people in all sorts of ways and we are very happy to get involved,” they told the Daily Record.
? MOHAMMED AWARDED MBE
Another retailer featured in the Daily Record on June lst was Mohammed Issa MBE, owner of the 1stStop2Shop in Dundee. Among other achievements, he holds a Citizen of the Year award and received the MBE for his community work.
He is a master fund raiser for local and national charities. One of his favourite projects is the local children’s charity Caring For Kids, which helps young people with problems in the Dundee area.
The exterior of Mohammed’s store is mostly devoted to community features – there are cartoon style notices advising his customers how to look after each other and stay safe.
=== money off value ===
The Daily Mirror and Daily Record feature on June lst also contained money-off coupons on 12 major brands, redeemable only at independent stores.
This gave the feature a double hit – there was actual money-off value for shoppers using local shops and a message of the value to the local community provided by independents. The total value of the money-off coupons was pound;4. 25.
Newsagents received a special poster promoting the cash offers together with advice on how to promote the offer in their stores – and boost the readership of the tabloids.
The MSYS platform provides suppliers and wholesalers with an unprecedented generic least-cost promotional thrust for NIW.