Though faced with tough economic conditions and political instability, the UK high street retail sector continues to make a significant contribution to the national economy. In 2017, the total value of retail store sales hit over £306 billion and the sector employed around 2.9 million people. But starting a high street retail business is no easy ride, especially in today’s climate; there’s no denying that a select few big-name brands are having to close stores. Therefore, if you do want to run your own profitable high street shop, it’s important to get it right and not make any rash decisions.
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To help you out, in this article we’re going to consider five essential qualities of a successful high street retail franchise that you should bear in mind before launching your own.
High street retail businesses - are they still a viable investment opportunity?
Resilient big brands
High street classics like M&S, Next and Boots have been around for years and have stayed strong during uncertain political and economic climates. In fact, to survive and still thrive on the high street proves that you are a resilient brand that adapts to changing consumer behaviour. Such retailers therefore have large customer bases that have been loyal to them since the start and continue to choose them over competitors.
A digital age
- Even though the national economy has been troubled by the uncertainty of Brexit, people are continuing to shop. But high street retailers need to be switched on to survive in the digital age, with more and more consumers favouring online shopping for its prices and convenience.
- However, research has shown that 85 percent of UK consumers still prefer to shop in store (Marketingsignals.com) and that people spend an average of £23 when visiting their local shopping centre twice a week. It was also found that shoppers would prefer to buy in person if possible and four in five shoppers enjoy chatting to shop workers when purchasing something.
- Only when shopping in store can you see how the product looks in real life and when tried on, engage in human interaction and receive it immediately after purchase. These are three factors that have kept high street retail franchises alive and are also areas that you should focus on and make as unique and effective as possible in order to attract and maintain custom when starting your own business.
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5 essential qualities of a successful high street retail franchise
Before opening a high street shop, consider these five qualities that dictate whether or not retail businesses succeed.
1. Give customers what they want
If you’re keen to open a high street store but are unsure what you want to sell, consider one of these five options. According to the Independent, these are the shops that people most want to see on UK high streets.
2. Make the most of physical space
One thing that online retail businesses don’t have is a physical space. Therefore, the most successful high street shops really make the most of it; for instance, by offering face-to-face services like DIY tips and practical advice. The most successful retail businesses will have a team of knowledgeable staff who can share their expertise with customers and provide a solution to a problem.
3. Merge the physical with the digital
You can’t completely avoid technology and you shouldn’t want to anyway. To strike a balance in store, a good option is having tablets that customers can order items on. They prove to customers that you have moved with the times and are offering a more versatile experience. Staff therefore have to be confident navigating customers through the website and the online ordering process.
Another idea is using digital loyalty cards instead of physical ones so customers no longer have to carry them round or forget to bring them. Customers will love the fact you’re considering the planet too!
4. Get creative and breathe life into the store
Think of ways that you can make the shopping experience more exciting or helpful for shoppers and give them a reason to visit the store rather than heading straight online.
Running live tutorials or workshops in-store is a great way to achieve this. Or you could have demonstration zones where customers can get involved and have a play with products.
Also, think about having vibrant decorations or eye-catching visuals to entice customers to enter. Anything that makes you stand out form competitors is a good thing.
5. Focus on engaging with customers
And no, this doesn’t mean having one member of staff at the front of the store saying ‘Hi, how are you today?’. For many customers this is an annoyance rather than a helpful question. Instead, you should hire chatty, engaging staff and implement a more effective training programme.
Retailers that hire and train better have already worked out that the key to customer engagement is a conversation. Therefore, it’s important to encourage employees to create a back-and-forth dialogue with the purpose of being helpful and human, rather than robot-like.
Inviting customers back is a great way to engage. The last thing customers will remember when they leave is how the retail business sent them back into their own world. Rather than just saying ‘thank you’, make sure staff encourage customers to return and create a long-lasting memory of how enjoyable the shopping experience was.
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What is the future of high street shopping?
- In all likelihood, the future of retail will be dominated by online sales, though physical stores will still be important – even if their role is more ceremonial, image-based or single purpose. Many retailers trialling new ‘smart stores’ can help demonstrate how such systems may operate.
- For instance, there are clothing businesses trialling boutique stores that only stock enough of each item for customers to try them for size. When they find the right size, they tell the attendant, and they organise the delivery of the product to the customer's address.
- Similarly, there are concept stores that stock no products whatsoever and are merely exercises in how far you can take marketing. As shopping online becomes ever more popular, physical stores will have to evolve and adapt to new functions, but they won't die out.
High street retail franchise opportunities
If you're considering opening a high street retail franchise, you need to know which franchise best suits you and what the competition looks like. To help you with this, we've compiled a list of two of the top retail franchises in the UK.
Skechers is a renowned footwear manufacturer that designs, develops and sells more than 3,000 different types of shoes. As a household name, the franchise has the brand recognition necessary to break into the most competitive of markets.
Franchisees are required to invest a total of £88,000 to get the business going. In return, you’ll receive extensive training and guidance, as well as merchandising advice, help selecting and fitting a location, and stock. The central franchisor team works closely with franchisees to ensure that they understand how to attract customers and make the most of their marketing resources.
CeX, otherwise known as the Complete Entertainment eXchange, is an increasingly recognisable presence on British high streets and one of the most popular retail franchises. CeX operates as a marketplace for second-hand entertainment technology and buys and sells a wide variety of products, including video games, mobile phones, laptops and films, amongst other things.
To become a CeX franchisee, you'll need to raise a total investment of around £150,000. CeX operates on the basis that a franchisee will generate an expected revenue of £1 million within the first two years of business, ensuring that the company is a financially viable investment for anyone with sufficient capital to launch a franchise unit.
Becoming a successful high street retail franchise in today’s political and economic climate
Though the retail industry is undergoing a drastic change, consumers are still willing to part with their hard-earned cash. As long as retailers adapt to new market realities and consider these five essential qualities, they're likely to continue succeeding and contributing to the UK economy. Click here to browse our retail franchise opportunities.
Becky Martin, Point Franchise ©