Time for brands to shift focus to local

Greg Deacon

With independent retailers the undoubted stars of the show in recent months, it’s time that brands reworked their strategies to put much more emphasis on supporting local retailers, says Greg Deacon.

by Greg Deacon, Chief Operating Officer, NFRN

The way that independent retailers across the UK have pivoted their businesses to combat the impact on them and their customers during the coronavirus crisis has been nothing short of remarkable. We’ve seen retailers show real entrepreneurial spirit and retail excellence through home delivery, click and collect, in-store safety measures and more – and all these steps have been communicated clearly to their local communities.

Through these impressive efforts, independent retailers have successfully increased consumer demand locally, providing essential items over the counter or by home-delivering to the communities they serve. We have witnessed the rebirth of the local shop.

These selfless acts and the loyalty and commitment behind them will be remembered by customers everywhere, making independent local shops more attractive to communities everywhere. Logically, this should also make local retailing outlets more important to brands, offering them the chance to grow visibility and sales. The big question is, then, whether brands will indeed switch some more of their focus to local retailing.

Regardless of whether they are big or small, brands will need to pivot their own channel strategies and recognise that what was done previously was inadequate, outdated, and ill-weighted.

Clearly, for manufacturers, winning with independents is the most challenging strategic play due to its highly fragmented, difficult to influence and, quite frankly, diverse network of stores. This has contributed to quicker and easier wins for brands through other channels. In today’s world, however, the question all brand leaders now face is ‘what will be the cost of inaction by not having a local strategy?’

My recommendations to suppliers everywhere are to recognise local shops, act now, pivot away and dispel previous myths and outcomes about the channel to move forward.

Failing to recognise the emergence and importance of the local shop will contribute to a decline in distribution, visibility and sales, along with retailer advocacy over time.

The latter contributes to a successful and symbiotic relationship that ensures your products are promoted and sold through a channel that is frequented, appreciated, respected and loved by thousands of consumers every day.

Forget CTN, c-store, supermarket and forecourt as classifications. The defining word we all need to be focused on is “LOCAL”. Everything we now consider or do must be local and Covid-19 has accelerated this to the benefit of independent shops everywhere. Brand, retailer, consumer – it’s time to be LOCAL.