5 Ways Independent Retailers Can Compete with the Big Chains this Christmas

2020 has been a challenging year for the retail sector and independent shops have borne the brunt of the hardship.

With two national lockdowns necessitating the closure of “non-essential” stores, many independent retailers had no choice but to sit back and watch as major high-street chains such as Tescos and Sainsburys hoovered up their trade.

5 Ways Independent Retailers can Compete with the Big Chains this Christmas

With smaller shops now finally able to  reopen their doors,  the pressure is on to make up for lost time and enjoy what is customarily the busiest month in the retail calendar:  the run-up to Christmas.

However, with some evidence showing that consumer shopping habits may have permanently changed as a result of the pandemic, owners of small independent retail outlets may be wondering how to compete with powerhouses such as Amazon.

Read on to discover 5 ways to help your independent store shine this festive period and make the most of that Christmas spirit amongst your customers.

  1. Focus on the Personal Touch

The nature of the coronavirus pandemic has seen the popularity of e-commerce channels skyrocket..

With many still reluctant to brave the high street, consumers have migrated towards shopping from the comfort of their own home using online stores.

However, there is no replacement for the experience of in-person shopping.  This is a clear advantage bricks and mortar stores hold over their online rivals – and one that should be exploited. 

Bear in mind that  many people will be seeking social connections after a year spent confined to their houses.  The personal touch is something independent retailers need to bring to the forefront of customer attention this Christmas.

5 Ways Independent Retailers can Compete with the Big Chains this Christmas

This can involve anything from making sure your staff provide shoppers with a warm welcome and excellent customer service, to reminding customers of the magic of in-person shopping whenever possible.

The journey from browsing to buying is often a sensory one: whether it be smelling fragrances and feeling fabric or trying on clothes or testing out new technology in-store.

These are all vital tactile experiences that a computer screen cannot provide, so make sure you remind your customers that they are on offer in your store!

  1. Create a Positive In-store Experience

Personal safety will be at the forefront of every shopper’s mind when venturing out onto the high-street this Christmas.

You can greatly improve the consumer experience by ensuring your independent store is a safe and pleasant place to be.

Make sure you have the relevant safety precautions in place and that any useful information is displayed clearly in your shop to safeguard customer peace of mind. 

Changing rooms should be disinfected after each customer and hand sanitizer should be on offer in various locations throughout your store, from the entrance to the till.

5 Ways Independent Retailers can Compete with the Big Chains this Christmas

Once you’ve got the hygiene side of things taken care of, work on creating a truly special in-store experience for your customers this Christmas.

This could include anything from festive music to eye-catching decorations or innovative window displays – get creative to draw those shoppers out from the cold and in through the door.

  1. Build Customer Loyalty

Christmas is an excellent time to capture new customers, but with retailers potentially facing further challenges in 2021 until a coronavirus vaccine starts to take effect – it’s important to think of ways to hang on to them and encourage their continued loyalty.  .

Consider offering customer reward schemes to tempt these new consumers back – anything from rewards for referrals and repeat shopping to competitions, giveaways and exclusive offers.

Consider asking new and existing customers to sign up for your newsletter or like your facebook page – this way you can make sure they’re aware of these reward schemes when the time comes to roll them out.

  1. Use Social Media

Many independent retailers made the switch to e-commerce channels during the height of the pandemic, either by selling products online or offering services such as click & collect and home delivery.  However – this was only an option to  those with the cash flow and expertise available.

The good news is that incorporating digital aspects into your business model doesn’t have to cost the earth and it doesn’t require realms of tech knowledge either.  A simple way to promote your business and build rapport with both existing and potential customers is by investing some time in your social media pages.

In the run-up to Christmas, any promotions you are offering should be announced on your social media channels to tempt customers in store, and lots of photos of your shop looking Christmassy and inviting are a great idea too.

Make sure you use social media as a way of checking in with customers and asking what they would like to see in your store and how you can put their minds further at rest when it comes to in-person shopping.

 Also consider investing some money in Facebook or Instagram advertising – something as simple as a boosted post can succeed in reaching people who’ve never heard of your business before but are soon to become new customers.

For more ideas on simple steps to take to make your business shine on social media, check out this blog post.

  1. Emphasise your role in the Community 

2020 has made people more aware of the importance of their local community than ever before – and independent high street shops are a vital component of this.

5 Ways Independent Retailers can Compete with the Big Chains this Christmas

Retailers such as corner shops and convenience stores provided a pivotal role in  their local area during the pandemic, going the extra mile to open their doors and supply essential stock to their customers.

This behaviour didn’t go unnoticed.  According to a survey by Barcylard, over half (55%) of Brits claimed they wanted to increase their support of nearby businesses as a result of the lockdown – primarily by visiting local shops and markets.

You can tap into this consumer intention by emphasizing the role your own independent store plays in your community..

For example, if you deal in locally sourced products, make sure you are communicating this to your customers.  Not only will it reinforce the authenticity of your product, but the “made local, sold local” approach is something consumers looking to support their surrounding area will  be all in favour of.

Likewise, if your business is family owned, make sure your customers are aware of it.   A family run operation offers a personal component that more faceless, corporate businesses can’t provide – and this contrast is bound to strike a sentimental chord with shoppers in the run-up to Christmas.


If you’re an independent retailer, you’ll no doubt be glad to see the back of 2020 – but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a busy Christmas period first.

Although online retailers have increased in popularity during the pandemic due to safety concerns and nationwide lockdowns, there’s still no match for the magic of in-person shopping – and this is where your bricks and mortar store comes in. 

By making sure you, as an independent retailer, are  emphasising your role in the local community, rewarding customer loyalty and offering a pleasant and personalised in-store experience, you stand a good chance of tempting people out of their houses and in through your shop door this festive season.

Good luck and happy retailing!

If you’re an independent retailer still looking for stock this Christmas, check out our comprehensive online directory of trusted UK wholesalers all vetted and verified by us!

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