As an independent retailer, it is becoming more and more difficult to attract new customers to our business.

With towns becoming clones as they fill with large chain stores, supermarkets, estate agents and charity shops, staying in business is a constant evolving process. Not only is there huge competition from the high street, but the internet is another factor, giving the consumer the high street in their living room, shopping 24/7 at their convenience.

As an independent retailer I cannot compete with the large chains who have tremendous buying power, or the internet, which has considerably lower overheads.

I have found that I have to constantly evolve, changing my processes, keep up, and stay one step ahead of the pack.

It is imperative to have a website, to have another shop front is key, to allow the consumer to see your business, and for you to promote your USP’s and endorse what you do, and what you believe in. Website presence is key, not necessarily a transactional site, utilise this “high street” to open the world to your business

Communication is key to spreading the word. A happy and satisfied customer will tell their friends. Customer service is hugely important. This is one area where you can have the upper hand against the competition. Customers love to talk about themselves, engage in conversation, ask for feedback and find out if there are any aspects of your business that could be improved. Don’t be defensive, accept criticism and make improvements. If it doesn’t work – you can’t say you haven’t tried.

I like to use the analogy of your business being a beautiful bright flower, full of pollen. Your customers are the bees and butterflies that will be attracted to you first. Go out and spread the word. Find local groups and offer to be a speaker, try Rotary, Soroptimist, the WI, Round Table, any local group that you can speak to and this will increase your profile.Tell them want you can offer above and beyond your competitors.

Believe in what you do. Your enthusiasm is like laughter, it is contagious. Take examples of your products. Describe what you do in basic terms, not jargon. Audiences switch off if they don’t understand. Most of all be yourself – and explain why you do what you do, and why you do it.