Many of your potential customers might be aware of your business but are holding back on crossing the threshold of your front door. There’s a mindset (which is probably more common than you’d think) that identifies chain stores and supermarkets as familiar and safe environments, and this same mindset puts independent retailers at a disadvantage as they’re seen as a daunting prospect.
Many people view independent retailers fondly and love to support their local independent specialist stores, preferring the quirky and unique offerings, but there is a percentage of shoppers who feel reassured by the predictable consistency of chain stores, safe in the knowledge they'll find the same layout and the same monotonous voice blaring out of a tinny speaker declaring "checkout number four please" no matter which branch they visit.
Your store is different. It has a unique offering and some of your potential customers will be concerned at what is hiding behind your door. With this in mind, take a moment now to walk out of your store, walk across the road and approach it with eyes wide open. Perhaps even take some photos or encourage your team to do this with you.
Window displays are an important element of your marketing but these must look professional, be regularly updated and it is a good idea to ensure that even with a display on, you can see through into the shop, so you have an idea of the layout and what to expect before you are in your final approach to the store.
Is the store well lit inside? A dark store will be putting off potential visitors so make a point of regularly checking all bulbs and consider upgrading if on a typical day the lighting in store is not up to the job of highlighting your offering.
Could you have the door open? This will be easier in the summer but I guarantee more people will come inside if there isn't an actual physical barrier in place. Conduct an experiment yourself and compare footfall for one week with the door open and then one week with it closed. Walk up and down your local town centre and observe how many customers are in the stores with their doors opened. This extends to those beaded curtains designed to prevent flies - I promise you they are also preventing sales!
While we're on the subject of the door, is it clean and clear of clutter? It can be hard to say no to other local businesses and organisations who ask you to display a leaflet or poster (and in fact I do encourage this and recommend you get them to reciprocate) so create a clear area for this and date all posters so they are removed after a certain period to keep it fresh and tidy, rather than having them build up in the doorway cluttering any potential customer's view of the inside of your store.
Establishing the front boundary of your store as a potential barrier to new business, what else can we do to (metaphorically) smash it down? On warmer days, encourage your team to blur the boundary and move into the street to give leaflets or sample products. Get involved with local events and enquire with your local town council or BID organisation to see if they offer outdoor spaces you can use.
A Google store tour has many benefits to your business but arguably the most important is that potential new customers will see how your store is laid out and what to expect when they do visit. These store tours are not overly expensive and your suppliers might consider funding some or all of this for you.
Remember that as an independent retailer you have many differences that you can use to your advantage.