Sector Focus Unique events can be sales drivers

The spring months present lucrative opportunities for retailers in a variety of different verticals, whether it’s fashion, food and drink, home furnishings and everything in-between. The longer days and warmer

weather are key sales drivers and must be planned for well in advance to maximise profits, with customer experience firmly front of mind. Spring also benefits from a

number of bank holiday weekends and important calendar moments such as Easter and Mother’s Day, which can mean big business for retailers. Perhaps surprisingly, Mother’s Day outstrips Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day when it comes to spending and, in 2017, shoppers spent £1.4billion on cards and gifts in preparation for the day. A simple way to tap into these calendar moments is by hosting special in-store activations. Harvey Nichols at the Mailbox for example has teamed up with a number of its brands to offer masterclasses in floral arrangements, skincare and makeup, alongside afternoon tea and refreshments. In retail, forward planning to tap

into these opportunities is key to success. At Mailbox, we start planning as much as six months in advance to fully take advantage of the warmer months. We ensure our brands have the

support they need to update and change merchandising and stock to keep up with customer expectations, as style-savvy shoppers start seeking out the

Retail Therapy

By David Pardoe Head of retail, The Mailbox

latest trends come March and April. For prominent events planning well in advance is key, we are already preparing opportunities for the Commonwealth Games in 2022. Unique events will also give

customers a greater incentive to visit shopping destinations or individual stores. We run a regular calendar of events including our food festival, Taste of the Mailbox, which is a weekend of expert masterclasses, live demonstrations and complimentary food and drink sampling. Partnering with city-wide events

can be beneficial too in order to drive footfall and promote retailers to a wider audience. We look forward to hosting the hub for Birmingham Cocktail Weekend (10–12 July 2020) for the third consecutive year. Alongside this, customer

expectations of traditional brick and mortar stores are changing, even when compared to the last 12

months. This year, sustainability is creeping higher on agendas, with many shoppers opting for ‘click-and- collect’ options to cut down on emissions caused by home deliveries. Tastes are changing too. This

year, statistics from Veganuary found that there’s been a 469 per cent increase in people interested in veganism in the UK in the past five years, which is why it’s vital for shopping destinations to offer a range of dining options to cater for different dietary requirements and preferences. A number of our restaurant

brands at the Mailbox launched dedicated, plant-based menus during Veganuary this year, with

Harvey Nichols hosting a special vegan afternoon tea, and Indico offered an extended range of vegan dishes, which will be returning, following popular demand, for Mother’s Day. Nando’s also got in on the action

by launching its new vegan PERinaise in both restaurants and Tesco and Asda supermarkets, offering its first plant-based PERi- PERi sauce. Managing changing customer

expectations with seasonal considerations and the pressure from online sales can feel like a balancing act for retailers, but planning ahead is key to ensure a successful spring and summer season.

Budget offered no cheer for the high-street

Birmingham-based rating experts Colliers says it is disappointed that the Budget failed to deal with the crisis on the high-street, at least as far as big retailers were concerned. John Webber (pictured), head of business

rates at Colliers International, said none of the announcements in the Budget would do anything to help with the fundamental problems of the current business rating system, and would only serve to delay proper reform. He did concede that some of the

Chancellor’s measures would aid smaller businesses, but added that these were not the ones ‘shedding the jobs’. He said: “The party of Brexit is still happy to

sit behind state-aid rules as the country faces an ‘economic Battle of Britain’. “Whilst helping SMEs is to be applauded,

there is nothing in the Budget that tackles the issues of the larger businesses – and these are the ones shedding the jobs. “Without helping larger businesses on

business rates, the silent majority is sidelined yet again.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak also promised

another review into the current business rates system, which Mr Webber believes is unnecessary. He said: “Promising ‘yet another’ review of

business rates, to be heard in the Autumn, seems nonsensical when the issue has already had a detailed review and the Treasury select committee gave its recommendations last November, many of which appear to be ignored. “One wonders what was the

point of all the expenditure in time and money, if we are purely to review again. “This government claims it is the

government to ‘Get Things Done’. This is not ‘done’ in my book. Yet again another trick has been missed in the chance to get some proper reform. “Unless business rates are properly

reformed, as recommended by the Treasury select committee, these plans will do nothing

to counter the impact of the 2017 business rates revaluation and introduction of downward phasing and simply won’t go far enough to help retailers struggling with their current rate bills. “We are now destined to see more shop closures and job losses in the high-street in the months ahead.” Chamber chief executive Paul

Faulkner said: “We welcome the measures that the Chancellor announced to support those smaller firms that are affected by Covid-19 and in particular, abolishing business rates for those with a rateable value under £51,000 for 12

months. “However, we would still like to see the

government go further and conduct a root- and-branch reform of the business rates system – as larger businesses are also impacted by these measures and let’s not forget the important role they play in generating footfall on the high-streets.”

April 2020 CHAMBERLINK 81

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