How to attract customers from afar and transform your shop into a destination

We find out how retailers can make their store a destination that attracts customers from beyond their local community

Cool cocktail bar Premier Morley

Every retailer wants to increase the number of people coming into their store, but with only so many people living within easy reach, there is a challenge for stores to attract people from beyond their own catchment area. One way to draw in traffic from further afield is to play the long game of a consistent quality offering and let word of mouth do its work.

Ian Lewis, from Spar Minster Lovell in Witney, Oxfordshire, is often told by customers that they have travelled past three other stores to buy things from him, driven by a strong reputation online and with his customers.

“They’ll tell us we have everything they need and that’s why they come to us,” he says. “They know the quality is here. I had a business owner tell me that if he sends his team to Oxford, he directs them to come out of their way to my store.”

Offering products that people can’t get elsewhere is another way to generate a far-reaching reputation. Customers know they can access the uniquely premium wine selection that Dean Holborn offers at his two stores in Surrey. The Cook meals offered by Jack Matthews’ Bradley’s Supermarket in Quorn, Leicestershire, aren’t available anywhere else within a five-mile radius. AJ Singh’s Premier Morley store in Leeds has a cocktail bar, a popcorn machine, its own vaping line and more, for which customers are willing to travel considerable distances.

“We didn’t do a big launch and we didn’t know how it would go down, but it took off so well. At first, we didn’t tell people it was our brand, but once we did, we got more traction because we got more customer loyalty from people who keep coming back,” says Singh.

It isn’t enough, though, to have these special things in your store. You have to shout about them, using social media, local press and encouraging customers to tell their friends. If word is to get out, you have to push it.

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