What can you do to mitigate the effects of major roadworks or other disruption outside your store? One award-winning retailer shares her advice

Last week RN reported on the plight of Kevin Hunt, a Spar retailer from Euxton in Yorkshire who has lost over £55,000 in turnover sdue to disruptive and delayed roadworks near his store.

Sam and Mark Coldbeck have twice faced similar challenges and have discovered a few strategies that can help limit the damage and even use such disruption to a business's advantage.

Mark & Sam ColdbeckServe those causing the disruption
Sam and Mark Coldbeck’s response to the sudden disappearance of a large chunk of their customer base was to turn those causing the disruption into loyal customers. “We asked the workmen if they would like anything in particular and they really appreciated it. It got to the point where they would come to us before going home for the weekend to buy their beer and cigarettes, or sweets for their children,” Sam says. Though not replacing the lost trade, this new customer base provided a vital new revenue stream for the business.

Prepare your staff
“Our staff weren’t very happy with the workmen coming in with their muddy boots, creating mess, but we told them it was short-term and that these customers were important,” says Sam. Providing a welcoming atmosphere helped cement their loyalty and Sam and Mark’s team were vital in securing this. “After they’d left our staff could then subtly clean the floor to keep the store looking tidy,” she adds.

Cast your net wider
Sam and Mark Coldbeck usually limit any leafleting to the area one mile around their store but when the railway bridge was closed they increased this to two miles, taking their reach right down to the docks in the heart of Hull. “We provided menus for our fresh sandwiches and food to go and made it clear that if customers couldn’t come to us we would deliver to them,” she says.

Ask your council for better communication
While Nainesh Shah had the benefit of developers contacting him ahead of work beginning around his store, this is by no means the norm. In both of Sam Coldbeck’s experiences with road disruption, she only discovered what was happening when workmen arrived. “There needs to be
improved communication,” she says.

For more survival strategies, read this week's RN (27 January)