Independent retailers are being recognized during the month of July both in Canada, as well as internationally. The movement began in the United States more than a decade ago, and it has expanded internationally in an effort to embrace the success of independent retailers, both brick-and-mortar as well as online.
According to the official Independent Retailer Month website, for every dollar spent at an independent retailer, between $5 and $14 is created in value to the local community. The site describes how shopping local supports local owners, their suppliers, and those they depend on for running their businesses. Supporting the local economy builds confidence in the community while enabling local businesses to prosper and grow, while the site claims that for every dollar spent at a national chain store, about 80% of the money “leaves town immediately”.
In Canada, a number of organizations are supporting local retailers in an effort to help communities prosper. Retail Council of Canada’s MySTORE division speaks to the unique needs of independent retailers, including its ShopIn initiative that provides independents with a variety of tools for success. Retail Council of Canada, which is considered to be ‘the voice of retail’ in Canada, is encouraging independent retailers to become members in a partnership that is committed to advancing, promoting and protecting the interests of independent retailers in Canada through federal, and provincial advocacy, valuable member benefits and services, training and development resources, and networking opportunities.
Toronto-based Digital Main Street has set out to help ‘main street’ businesses get online, by helping them adopt digital tools, technologies and services. Businesses can access free workshops and training on topics relevant to their learning needs at the ‘DMS Academy’. The ‘DMS Lab’ is a virtual retail tech incubator that helps build partnerships between startups and BIA’s to pilot new technologies with main street businesses. "Digital Main Street connects main street businesses to the most innovative digital providers,” says Darryl Julott, Program Manager at Digital Main Street. "Our team has selected trusted digital product and service providers for you to work with, who are offering the best deals exclusively when you sign-up.”
Also supporting independent retailers is cloud-based point-of-sale platform Lightspeed. Founder and CEO Dax Dasilva says that he thinks that independent retailers, both brick-and-mortar as well as online, are the future in Canada. “The time is now for independents,” said Mr. Dasilva, going on to describe the advantage to being an independent retailer. "Small and medium-size retailers are more nimble — they have the ability to set up shop almost overnight and can easily navigate a transition from a solo brick-and-mortar presence, to an ecommerce and omnichannel platform. Omnichannel POS solutions like Lightspeed democratize the access for multiple sales channels, and smart independents are often the first to adopt new technology quickly,” he said.
Lightspeed is supporting independent retailers with its powerful cloud-based POS solutions, powering more than 45,000 customers in 101 countries. In an effort to further get to know independents in order to better assist, Mr. Dasilva met with groups of retailers in Lightspeed’s major markets in North America, the Netherlands as well as in the UK, engaging in dialogues about the state of retail. A number of key learnings included:
- Customers expect to be met wherever they are, and the service and relationships built between the retailer and the customer must be consistent on and offline – this is where omnichannel is paramount,
- Social media and mobile technology must be embraced for businesses to keep up with the digital landscape – businesses often dedicated staff and hours to a budding social media presence alone, and
- Independents are optimistic about the future, they look forward to change and they thrive on the prospects of adaptability
The roundtable also concluded something remarkable — that independent retailers are agile, being able to adapt at a much quicker pace than big box retailers, making an easier transition to an omnichannel presence from either just eCommerce or just bricks and mortar. Endeavours like Mr. Julott’s Digital Main Street will no doubt also prove useful to get local physical retailers online.
Lightspeed is hosting a free speaker series for six weeks throughout the summer, offering unique insights on the retail world from experts. It can conveniently be viewed online — after airing live on Lightspeed’s Facebook page, the webinars are posted on the web.
The first two speakers' presentations are now available to view online. On July 18, the lecture 'The modern retail experience’ was hosted by Lightspeed CMO Laith Murad and Etiket owner Simon Tooley. The lecture discusses how to compete in today’s changing retail environment, grow your brand, reach new customers and drive increased sales. On July 25, "Social media for independent businesses", was hosted by Brenin Watts, Lightspeed social media specialist, discussing how to create a strategy for each platform in order to most effectively create an authentic connection with your audience.
The following is a description of the other speakers that will be involved between now and August 23:
August 1: "Building relationships with your customers”, Hosted by Alex Therrien, Key Accounts Manager of Lightspeed, and Rami Karam, Co-Founder & CEO of Thirdshelf. Description: Getting new customers is only half the battle. Learn how to build a deeper relationship with your shoppers so they come back again and again.
August 8: "Investing in your employees”, Hosted by Chelsea Finnimore, VP of HR of Lightspeed, and Carol Wood, People Operations Director of Homebase. Description: High staff turnover plagues the retail industry at all levels. Pick up some actionable advice on how you can keep your employees with you for longer — and why that might just be crucial to your success.
August 15: "Navigating technology”, Hosted by Dax Dasivla, Founder and CEO of Lightspeed himself.
Description: Technology is changing the way that people shop. Learn about how new market technologies are bringing shopping experiences to the next level.
August 23: "Growing your business”, Hosted by JP Chauvet, President of Lightspeed. Description: How do you know whether you’re looking at the right indicators for success? Learn how setting the proper KPIs is a key component of your business growth.
Independent retailers are an important part of the Canadian economy, and in July of 2018, we’ll become even more involved in various independent retailer initiatives. Many terrific organizations including Retail Council of Canada, Digital Main Street, and Lightspeed, are there to support local retail, in an effort to compete against national and international behemoths that continue to co-exist in the marketplace.