2011 in retail

What a year. From Boom to Bust and a little more Bust. A downward spiral across the Continent, a failure at Eurovision, riots in the streets and even Sir Phill is out of pocket. But, having said all that and having lived through it all; we’re still here.

Businesses have suffered and closed, we’ve waved good-bye to some of the UK’s best loved multiples and countless indie stores in the process; the ones we’ve kept hold of have changed beyond recognition. Our economy, social morale and understanding of direction for the country is askew.

Landlords don’t understand business owners, businesses are forgetting their customer, customers aren’t spending wisely and playing into the wrong hands. Sales agents happily over-stock indies and don’t provide support, brands bully retailers whilst councils wrap the lot in red tape. This has got to stop.

A landlord that demands double rent during the Christmas season doesn’t understand the difficulty of trading at such a time, especially during 2011. A retailer that forgets its customer forgets why it opened the doors in the first place. Sales agents and brands need to work with retailers to ensure their product is well represented and that the retailer has the best possible chance of shifting it at full margin; bullying and threats don’t make for a nice experience for anyone. Above all Councils and Government need to wake up to the problems and hopefully The Portas Review has gone someway to starting that manoeuvre.

 Picture courtesy of The Portas Review 

Perhaps 2012 will bring about an epiphany? Perhaps not. Perhaps we’ll rediscover our high streets in the depths of recession or perhaps they’ll be demolished to make room for another ASDA*WALMART Super Centre. Perhaps we’ll get a little of each?

2012 will be a big year for everyone because we have everything to lose and everything to gain. On a personal level, it will be a big year for me and I intend to grab it by the horns and not let an opportunity go by without having a good go at it first! I urge you all to do the same because where 2011 was a year of uncompromisable change and un-relentless hardship, we need to make 2012 count by reversing what we can and picking up as many of the pieces.

If you’ve not yet read the Mary Portas review on retailing in the UK, please do. If you take only one thing away from it let it be that if each and every one of us believed in our high streets in the way that Portas seems to; they wouldn’t necessarily be in the predicament that they find themselves in now.

READ THE MARY PORTAS REVIEW HERE

I’ll be back just before New Years Eve with a special announcement and I’ll be blogging in 2012. Expect an interview with Hannah Martin the jewellery designer extraordinaire and hopefully some snaps of Paris if Mother McDowell gets her camera uploaded.

Merry Christmas to all and Seasons Greetings to everyone else, may it be a time of good will and good wine.

END.

Be the Business

I’ve recently been on the peripherals of a campaign that was in support of progress, enterprise and trade in a local town that is dying on its feet.
The campaign’s main objective was to get local businesses to vote in favour of adding a little extra, around £135.00 p/a for most small retailers, onto their Council Tax bill. This money would then be totted up and given back to the community at the end of the year to do with what the community felt was most important. Perhaps hanging baskets to brighten the town centre, perhaps marketing to support a Christmas market. The possibilities were endless. The money was for the town’s businesses to invest in what they cared about most. Not only this, but by being part of the scheme the town would have been open to a plethora of other international funds and money pots, basically because they were showing effort and initiative. 
The main plan for this town was to spruce it up and get it on the map with key events in the tourist season and out-of-season to drum up business where it is needed most.
Working with a budget of £52,500 p/a based on the participation of 350 businesses in the BID area: £13000 had been designated for new events, £5000 for festive lights to illuminate the appalling effort currently made by the council, £7000 to help support the administrative arm of the new Chamber of Commerce and even £2500 had been designated as Contingency.
The vote went to ballot and the result was negative. What is so crushing is that it was not turned down because of an overwhelming opposition, but instead because of overwhelming apathy.
How does business, small independent business at that, hope to dig itself out of this recession if the people behind the businesses can’t be arsed to pick up a pen and paper and make their voice heard. I’m not talking about committing to weekly meetings, knocking on doors. There are people with more guts and energy in every town that are happy to do that for you, for free, they just need you to show one ounce of support to give them to go ahead to make your towns and your businesses thrive.
My passion is in business and independent business is the key to a prosperous future but that future is nothing but a dream if these businesses don’t wake up and make use of the few tools they have at this time.
If you’re interested in the case study I’ve presented, you can find out more here:

http://www.torbaytowncentrescompany.co.uk/bids/brixhambid/index.php

It is the only town in the history of this specific BID to have turned down the opportunity.

END.

I LOVE MANCHESTER

Sorry for being quiet for a while. Lots has been going on and such but here is a little posty-wosty about a cool campaign that has taken over Manchester’s retail districts. 

Post-riots (find out more about the riots in my When Twitter Backfires post) Manchester City Council and other organisations have embraced a campaign devised to get shoppers back into the city. We are a world of consumers… The campaign is an extension of the Visit Manchester initiative which prints ‘I (love heart) MCR’ on everything for tourists to buy a la New York. So, by popping a poster in your window, your shop participates. Easy peasey. What’s more is that the WHOLE Manchester Metro Link tram service network was FREE today for shoppers to commute with financial ease. Bonus.

I went into town to have a looksee. (on a free tram no-less)


END.

When Twitter backfires

Riots, riots, riots. What a dramatic couple of days, one where Social Media has been used for good and for bad. 
I’m typing this from my living room whilst watching Twitter and the itv live blog update on the goings on as the riots hit my home town,. 
Right this second Miss Selfridges has gone up in flames in Manchester City Centre and Manchester Arndale has been broken into.

images from @mtattersallitv
Explosions have been reported and a Didsbury resident is being held over using Twitter to organise riots.
But you know all this. You’ve seen it on the news.
What I’m interested in is how Twitter has been used by fashion retailers during the chaos. TOPSHOP came under fire because their tweets seemed insensitive to some followers. TOPSHOP’s marketing division had undoubtedly scheduled their tweets in a few days prior, as most large organisations do. 
Their tweets read things like: ‘@TOPSHOP We’re busy busy over here with exciting things for AW11! What’s everybody else up to?’
Admittedly, this could seem sad to someone sat outside their burning shop, but can we expect retailers to alter their marketing strategies to suit the political mood of the moment? It would too seem sad to someone who had just been the victim of an unfortunate situation unrelated to the UK Riots.
A helicopter has just gone over my house….
Twitter is reactive, it is of the moment, but why do we care what retailers are tweeting when we’re worried about loved ones, some might even say that if retailers jumped on the PR carosel and tweeted #riot themed posts that they would also be insensitive.
Harvey Nichols in Manchester also came under fire, tweeting: ‘@HN_Manchester Our tweets today have been pre-scheduled. We’ve had to close. Apologies if we seemed insensitive.’
Personally, I think this is the least of the problems when retailers are having to close during the toughest month because of stupid scumbags not having anything to do.
Trams have been stopped to and from Manchester city centre and this man has just been arrested for trying to damage the stationary vehicle.
images from @mazherabidi
Perhaps this is the end of scheduled postings?
What do you think?

ADDED AT 20:05

Diesel just tweeted me after I included them in a list of attacked stores in the City. They are using Twitter to asertain the damage to their chain. Clever/sad that they have to.

 images from @mtattersallitv


END.

American Apparel Fail

Bought from American Apparel the other day. Not exactly a nice experience.

Firstly, the website isn’t user friendly. I got attracted to the site from a Tweet from @americanapparel advertising ‘20% off Basics’, could I find the discounted basics? Could I hell. It wasn’t until the checkout that I was informed that the discount was automatic….
The categories are also confusing. Each banner link presents with it a plethora of other options, but navigating the options throughout the platform (i.e. from bracelets to shorts) is not so easy.

So. Anyway, I went to the checkout after getting 10% off for signing up to the newsletter. Brill. I then got an email to push for more info in return for 15% off. Bonus. I went through the questions and filled in my deets to get my 15% off discount code. Input it, got the discount and made my purchase.
Or so I thought. My code miraculously turned into the 10% code and reverted back and I lost my discount. Upon realising this I tweeted @americanapparel for help, as I would have tweeted @ASOS_HereToHelp and I’ve yet to receive a reply. Why have a twitter if you’re not going to converse?
In other news: one of the items I paid for isn’t in stock and I’ve got to wait 3 week for it.
Great.
I love American Apparel and I love what the brand does globally BUT come on!
END.