Roadworks and repairs are a fact of life, but their impact on footfall in stores cannot be underestimated. Whether it’s obstructing road crossing, pavements, parking or the entire street, ongoing roadworks will reduce the number of people moving through or coming to your area and so will reduce the number of people entering your store.
Ultimately, once the roadworks are up, there is very little stores can do except keep telling customers that they’re still open. The inconvenience caused by closed roads will often prove too much of a deterrent. However, regardless of how much obstruction there is on the street and on the pavement, if your store is still open it’s essential that people are kept aware of that.
Signposts, A-boards and banners will let people know that you’re still open for business. “We put signposts up outside the shop to let people know that we’re open even with the roadworks,” says Devlatta Patel, from Goodnews Newsagents in Eastbourne, East Sussex. “We have to.” For many stores, the first time they’ll hear about roadworks will be when men in hard hats start digging up the road that morning. “Unless it’s something major like drainage or sewage, when we might get a couple of weeks’ notice, there’s not much you can do to find out,” says Terry Caton, from Londis Chesterfield and Post Office, Derbyshire. “The local paper can tell you what roadworks will be affecting your area, but that still gives you minimal notice.”
For many retailers, the best thing to do is ride the storm and prepare the promotional campaign for when the roadworks are over. “Promotion is essential, especially if it’s been for a long time and people have changed their habits or their routes,” says Caton. “That’s something that they can get used to.”
Get advance notice
Shailesh Patel, of Londis Chelsea Food Fayre, London, is anticipating new roadworks. “They’re laying fibre optic broadband further up the road, and I’ve got a
feeling it’s going to travel towards us.” As a bus stop is just outside his shop, the effect of roadworks on his footfall can be all too clear. Compensation for lost business is an option for retailers, regardless of how essential the disruption is. However, it’s only worth the hassle if the works either go on for a long time, or overrun significantly.
“For short periods, say two weeks to a month, I don’t think they’ll offer it.” Patel has also had difficulty with getting advance notice, whether from private companies or his local authority. Getting advance notice from your local authority with details of what the works will entail and how long they are scheduled to take is essential for helping you pursue appropriate compensation.
See if roadworks can help you
For Devlatta Patel, from Goodnews Newsagent in Eastbourne, East Sussex, the inconvenience of roadworks is somewhat offset by the fact they have never closed the entire street. Even if her store’s side is closed, people can still park on the other side of the road.
“They always do one half and then the other, which does make a difference,” she says. “And they always give me notice.” Roadworks have a detrimental effect on her day-today business, but Patel can’t complain. “It needs to be done.” Her challenge is ensuring the roadworks she wants done are also carried out.
“We’ve complained to the council about water leaking into the middle of the road and these big lorries passing through. We complained to the council and the roadwork people, but they said it wasn’t their fault or enough of a job for them.”
An opportunity to promote your store
According to Nikit Patel, from Brandons in Beckenham, Kent, there’s not much that retailers can do while the roadworks are in place. “It caused a lot of problems for us. It reduces footfall dramatically on two fronts,”he says. “People don’t tend to come past on foot or driving. If you put something in their
way, they won’t come.”
However, once the roadworks are finished, the challenge is to inform people that your store is still open and remind them of what they’ve been missing out on.
“The main thing to do is to let people know that you’re still in business. It’s an opportunity to get out and promote your shop. You can send out flyers or banners for when people are walking back down to the parade. “Social media can get the word back out that ‘we’re still here, we’re still doing our thing’. It can be a nice reminder for people.”
Take time to look at your offer
Terry Caton, from Londis Chesterfield and Post Office, Derbyshire, rarely gets any notice when roadworks are imminent and once they’re up it becomes a challenge for his customers to get to his store. However, he uses this lull in custom to take a step back from his business.
“The one thing is does is make you stand still and look at what you have to offer and the different ways you can get the message out there and promote your store,” he says. “Sometimes you’re running at 100 miles an hour, but this does make you stop and look at what you’re doing. “The past 12 months proved what we can do with the delivery service that we’ve been offering. It’s been a great tool for customers who may not be able to get to your store.
“If we needed to push out in that way during roadworks, that’s another avenue. It’s part of our make-up now.”