Coffee shops have taken a greater prominence and importance on UK high streets in recent years. Not just because the trend for coffee away from home has grown year on year, but because the nature of how the general public buys products has changed over the last few decades. As a coffee shop owner or manager, it’s likely that your future prosperity is tied inextricably to the health of the high street. Which means you’ve got a major role to play in increasing footfall. And not just by serving a higher standard of handcrafted coffee. Here’s what we think you should be doing to support your community and, in turn, benefit yourself.
It starts with social media. Now, if you’re already active on social media, you’ll have noticed – and, we hope, embraced and shared – a particular set of hashtags: #shoplocal, #shopindependent, #shopsmall, #campaignshopsmall, #shopethical, #handmade and #justacard. Hashtags help social media users – ie your potential customers – to find you. The little list you’ve just read is pretty self-explanatory, isn’t it? Each of those hashtags relate to the idea of supporting small, independent, local businesses.
It’s Black Friday today and Cyber Monday after the weekend. The UK has adopted an American marketing campaign loosely connected with Thanksgiving, as an opportunity to flog more stuff. Understandable, really. Except, of course, that those three great threats to the British high street (online shops, big chains with superior buying power, and out-of-town retail parks) all exploit this manufactured marketing technique to their advantage, and not to yours. Grabbing that so-called bargain is something we’ve all done, but the reality is that we then have that little bit less disposable cash to spend locally, and because we spent our time hunting online or in big chain stores on retail parks, we’re not spending the disposable income we DO have on the high street, in local stores.
Which means what? Against a backdrop of rising rents and business rates, small business owners – just like you – have even less income, less profit and less chance of remaining in business for another year. We hear the approaching jingle of Christmas. So, there’s no time like the present (present – see what we did there?) for trying to encourage the general public to visit the high street, find great products and gifts, and support local businesses.
We think that means you should take a bit of time to follow these easy steps.
- Get to know the people behind other local independent, high-street-based shops, service providers (hairdressers, tattoo parlours, opticians and so on) and even other coffee shops, pubs and restaurants in your area.
- Physically visit them all, regularly. Browse their products. Take good photos.
- Find out their Twitter, Facebook and Instagram names, and follow them online.
- Along with your self-promoting and helpful social media posts, use your photos to highlight those local shops and providers, and some of the things they have available. Tag those businesses in your captions and hashtag with relevance.
If you, from behind the espresso machine in your lovely little coffee shop, can encourage people to visit and buy from other independent shops on your high street, you’re offering direct help to those businesses. You’re drawing more visitors to your high street. You’re giving your followers valuable, helpful information, for free, and they’ll love you for it. They’ll also love your generosity of spirit. So too will the social media feeds of the retailers you promote and, who knows, a little reciprocity may come your way…
As a small business on an ailing high street, it’s up to you to collaborate with your neighbours to provide a more positive, welcoming service to your local community. We think it’s fitting that the internet, which offers such a challenge to local shops, is the medium you can use to do that.