Embedding a store into the fabric of the local community is of critical importance for many retailers, not only those in tight-knit rural villages, but also for those in urban communities or those looking to reach out further afield to attract the attention of new customer bases. While social media is a great way to get the word out, physical interaction can provide far more memorable experiences for customers that can either pique their interest in the store or strengthen feelings of local loyalty that they might have.
“You’ve got to go above and beyond in this day and age to stand out and keep yourself going,” says Andy Miles, from Dike & Son in Stalbridge, Dorset, whose support of community events stretches beyond the boundaries of the town into neighbouring villages as well.
Community events can be centred around the store itself, whether it’s hosting tasting events that allow suppliers to get their products in front of more people or setting up stalls and entertainment in the space outside your store. But there are also things that can be done away from the store, from getting involved in larger community events or fundraising beyond the store’s walls.
In the current climate, it can be difficult for retailers to consider giving products away for free at events, but the return in customer loyalty can be significant. “Everyone is struggling at the moment,” says Nico Ali, from Scotch Estate Premier in Jarrow, Tyneside. “So you’ve got to spend that little bit at first and give things away. Then you get people coming forward.”
Promoting what you’re doing doesn’t just get the word out to people about that event, it also drives further interest and inspiration for future events. Ali approaches local radio stations and other media to tell the world what he’s doing, and also reaches out to the council, hospitals and football clubs for further support, inspiration and promotion.