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Lock, shop and two smoking months

Stuart TickleBy Stuart Tickle, Managing Director, AWE


At the time of writing this article, the Government has revealed details of its three-tiered alert levels in England. Thankfully, for now, shops are not having to close, but it has not been completely ruled out for very high-risk areas and there are suggestions of a country-wide “circuit breaker” lockdown being called for by some others, too.

During lockdown in April and May, it was reported that many retailers with a good online presence saw a massive spike in business. Since shops reopened, the COVID-19 measures and change in consumer behaviour means that many have gone from a 70 per cent in-store versus 30 per cent online sales split, to a complete reverse of these figures. It is probably no surprise, but wherever that figure settles – if and when we come out the other side of the pandemic – online sales have received a real uptick in an already steady trend in their favour.

But by my calculations, 70 plus 30 is still 100 per cent. So, the problem is that even those busy bricks and mortar electrical retailers that have a strong online presence are not seeing an overall increase in turnover, as the online sales are typically higher volume but lower value. It’s running faster for the same money, or less.

We are all hopeful we don’t return to a full lockdown with all shops having to close

So, for many, if you want to stay in business, new business is needed…

The upside is that lockdown has shown beyond all doubt that bricks and mortar stores add value in terms of good quality demos and sales staff skills, no question, and this is more important than ever, but I also believe that many still need to diversify to survive, let alone thrive. So what changes are needed?

Channels

Omni-channel selling is not a new concept, but I don’t just mean online and in-store. Neither do I mean brown and white goods sales, or even furniture and kitchens. The thing that is in massive demand right now and can often be done within existing resource is in-home and online consultations, backed up by fast, efficient installation.

Products

Focus on the same core products as what you do now but add a selected range of additions in big growth areas, such as smart-home security, basic home cinema projection systems, and simple control.

Skills

The same core skills that many of your staff already have are needed, but with some additional product or technology-specific training to brush up on skills where needed.

When

Some might may say about 10 years ago, but RIGHT NOW is still a great time! There is a huge growth in demand for technology that keeps people safe and in-touch with family, and there are new ranges of products optimised for the simple installation market, like Ring X Line. The lockdown has broken down barriers of previous technophobes who now think nothing of Zoom conference calls or chatting on FaceTime with their friends and family. There is also a wealth of online courses available, including from CEDIA and our own Smart Home Academy.

Who

The do-it-for-me (DIFM) customer WANTS someone to come to them. They have money previously reserved for holidays and meals out sitting in their accounts and can see a long winter ahead and want to speak to someone who is trusted. It could be their local electrician, but in the words of Ant and Dec in the jungle, it could be you.

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