PCR talks to ‘Retail Champion’ Clare Rayner about launching retailer events, books, and offering advice to the channel

Clare Rayner: Retail inspiration

PCR last met up with Clare Rayner at PCR Boot Camp, where she gave a well-received talk on the Ten Steps to Retail Success.

Since then, Rayner simply hasn’t stopped. In July she led the second Independent Retailer Month in the UK and now her book on the Ten Steps to Retail success has been published.

It seemed a good time to catch up with Rayner and find out what else she has up her sleeve for the retail industry.

Your Ten Steps to Retail Success proved very popular at PCR Boot Camp. What came first, the list or writing a book for retailers? And what made you want to do it?
I’d developed the ten steps to retail success methodology as a framework for my mentoring services. It’s a great way to ensure that on the first one-to- one meeting I’m able to address each and every aspect of their business in a considered and dispassionate way.

The inspiration for the book started when an independent retailer tweeted ‘can someone help me – where can I find a guide to being a successful smaller retailer’ – or words to that effect. She became a client, but I’d still not really considered writing the book. The final push came from a lady called Sue Blake, who very sadly passed in July following a brief battle with cancer. Sue helped experts in various sectors to articulate their core purpose. I’d worked with her for a short period to help me better express what ‘The Retail Champion’ offered. It was Sue’s encouragement that finally convinced me to get writing.

In July you spearheaded a campaign for Independent Retailer Month. What was the rationale behind it, and what impact did it have?
Independent Retailer Month is a global shop local campaign that originated in the USA, I lead the UK arm. The purpose is to provide the environment for retailers and communities to create promotions, activities and events to re-engage consumers for a sustained period in the aim to rebuild the habit of buying from local, independent retailers. It has a very serious mission – to create a positive, sustainable social and economic impact.

As a relatively new campaign we’re still ‘being discovered’ by many, but this year in the order of 1,000 retailers UK-wide (from the Orkneys to the Isle of Wight) participated. We have reports from one that a four per cent increase in sales was achieved on event days and others found it a great opportunity to reconnect with local customers and to invite them back to their store, to remind them of the great products, the knowledgeable staff and the fantastic service they had to offer.

Is it true you’re looking to follow up July’s Independent Retailer month with a Christmas campaign?
Following the momentum we’ve created in July I am launching a spin- off campaign ‘Celebrate an Independent Christmas’. This will have the support of various business organisations, such as the Federation of Small Businesses, which will provide ‘local activation partners’. The campaign is officially kick-started for the retailers through two events in London and Manchester – www.indiexmaslondon.eventbrite.co.uk and www.indiexmasmanchester.eventbrite.co.uk. At these events we aim to provide inspiration during the morning keynote sessions, plenty of networking time over an extended lunch break and practical support and advice in an afternoon packed with workshops.

The other key aspect of the Independent Christmas campaign is that we’re going to be encouraging local communities, co-ordinated by their local activation partners, to create ‘Christmas Shopping Crawls’. Whilst a bit of fun and something of a contest for the consumer, it is intended that as a result of these activities our high streets and town centres will see that positive social and economic impact from increased footfall, increased sales and ongoing engagement with the local consumer. You can find out more via www.independentretailermonth.co.uk/christmas-shopping.

Presumably you think it is very important for retailers to work together and learn from one another?
Collaboration is key, we’re all different, and we all address the issues we face in business differently. One of the strongest messages of feedback following our Independent Retailer Month kick-start conference was how valuable the networking had been.

Often retailers don’t take the time out of their busy day-jobs to speak to others who are ‘in the same boat’. It can be a very lonely existence running a small business, especially in such a challenging economy.

Meeting with others, within and outside of your sector, sharing ideas and comparing experiences, is both very reassuring and a hatchery for new ideas and new opportunities. I am a passionate advocate of more conference -style events for smaller retailers, they do attend the trade shows, but these are often time-pressured buying trips.

Big players have a vast array of conferences and networking opportunities to choose from, smaller retailers are under-served in this area, so PCR Boot Camp, and events like the Independent Christmas and Month activation events are opportunities the retailers should grab!

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges for independent retailers at the moment?
The biggest challenge all retailers face is the fact that rates and other overheads are increasing at a time when consumer confidence and spending is very low. The difference between a multiple and an independent is that there simply aren’t economies of scale. Underperforming stores can’t be off-set by strong stores, few deals can be done with suppliers due to small volumes.

Add to this reducing availability of credit and consumer disenchantment with the High Street and there are enormous pressures on business owners.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, those who really focus on attracting non-price sensitive customers, those who don’t compete on price but focus on service and customer experience, can be successful.

What trends do you see emerging over the next few months and going into 2013?
Well I hope to see a trend of local Christmas Shopping Crawls for a start! But seriously, this ‘gameification’ element (making a regular activity a challenge, more fun) and leveraging community spirit needs to be a trend if we’re to believe that our smaller and micro businesses are the key to pulling the UK out of a double-dip recession.

Aside from this, I expect the polarisation of the market to continue – in that lower cost providers migrate to the lower cost environments of out- of-town environments and online trading, where price competitiveness and price comparison is king.

Conversely, I would expect to see the higher quality, experience-led providers (often smaller retailers) making use of greater social engagement opportunities, building more inter- personal relationships with their customers, being an integral part of the community and maintaining that engagement approach through social media and consumer review sites, such as yelp. In this way I believe that consumers can then clearly choose where they spend depending on whether price or experience or service is of greater importance to them in the particular transaction.

What’s coming up a bit further down the road? On your website it says that you have a new book due to come out in early 2013 on Selling to Retailers.
I do have a new book coming out on February 3rd 2013. It’s aimed at startups, pre-startups and any entrepreneur with an idea – the next Innocent Smoothies, the next Dyson… It’s based on the other focus area of my one-to-one mentoring – people who want to sell to retailers. It’s equally relevant to those who have developed products or services. It’s based on a 12- part-plan in four sections and the aim is to enable them to protect their brand and make it big by launching their product, or service, to market.

Three lucky readers can win a copy of The Retail Champion – 10 Steps to Retail Success by simply emailing retailchampion@intentmedia.co.uk with their company name and the answer to this question: What is the name of Clare Rayner’s new Christmas campaign for retailers?

To buy a copy of The Retail Champion – 10 Steps to Retail Success and to request a signature and personal dedication visit www.retailchampion.co.uk/retail-success.


  • Don’t compete on price, compete on service.
  • Know your ideal customer so well they’re like an imaginary friend, you can make decisions on their behalf and ensure every aspect of your product, pricing, promotions and engagement are focused on attracting that customer.
  • You need to be where your customers are… it sounds obvious but so many retailers pick low- cost locations over ideal locations – this is false economy.
  • Don’t forget if you offer home delivery that the last person who interacts with your customer is the delivery driver – choose who you partner with wisely as this will be the final memory your customer has of their experience of buying from you.
  • When you create an action plan don’t just file it away in a draw, do it! If you are the kind of person who needs to externalise it to feel ‘committed’ to it then get a mentor to help you stay focused!

To sign up for 52 free weekly retail tips, visit www.retailchampion.co.uk/retail-tips.

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