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How to Succeed in Retail

It’s safe to say there’s a lot of opportunity within the retail sector but there’s also a lot of competition. So if you’ve already set up shop and are looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, here are some tips on how to succeed in retail.
How to Succeed in Retail

The retail sector in the UK is massive - in 2018 sales totalled £381 billion with one third of all consumer spending filtering through retail and 18% of all retail sales made online.

It’s safe to say there’s a lot of opportunity within the retail sector but there’s also a lot of competition. So if you’ve already set up shop and are looking for ways to stand out from the crowd, here are some tips on how to succeed in retail.

How to run a successful online retail business


One of the biggest challenges of online retailing is that you don’t have passing trade, so attracting interest can be difficult. That’s where marketing comes into play.

Online marketing is a cost effective and quick way to begin. Set up social media profiles, build an email database and develop a blog for your website. Put together a plan that outlines what topics you’ll talk about and when. Search engine optimisation and keyword research can help you narrow down what to talk about and help your website be found by search engines.

Building loyal customers can also be more difficult online as you’re not given as many opportunities to connect with customers. Customer service is your opportunity to build a rapport with your customers and includes everything from handling enquiries, to offering discounts and maintaining an easy-to-use website.

Another important factor to success is knowing when you’re taking on too much. In between processing orders, creating social media posts, updating the website, staying on top of inventory and dealing with returns, you don’t have much time for anything else. Taking on too much may result in neglecting other aspects of your business. Choose carefully what to outsource, anything that you’re not an expert at is a good place to start.

How to run a successful brick and mortar retail business


Where online businesses have to rely heavily on digital marketing, a physical shop benefits from window displays. Window displays grab the attention of passing trade and proudly represents what your shop is about and what you sell. Research has suggested that effective window displays can increase your sales by as much as 540%, so start your research and decide what type of displays you want to create.

That being said, it’s also important to not ignore your online presence either. You don’t have to go all in, but at the very least set up a social media account and use Google My Business to upload your shop profile to Google. This will help people searching for your products in your area find you online and your address too.

The experience your customer has in store is important too. Make sure you craft an atmosphere that reflects what you sell. This can include everything from the ambient music you play, to the scent and layout. Consider why your customer has come into your shop and what their expectations are as well as the type of person they are and how that influences your approach to customer service.

How to make money in retail business


It doesn’t matter if you’re in retail out of passion, every business needs to make money to keep trading. These tips are by no means an exhaustive list, but they are definitely worth considering.

Invest in your staff


This is the case whether you own a bricks and mortar business or an online shop. Training and investing in your staff for the likes of customer service, sales, or marketing will help you make money in the long run. Always aim to hire people who are talented enough to make you look good and who you feel confident leaving your business in the hands of.

Constantly review your outgoings


An easy way to quickly let your money slip through your fingers is by not keeping a close eye on where it’s going. Review your incoming and outgoings on a regular basis (at least every quarter) to see where you can free up cash. Look at everything from utility bills to suppliers and staffing, the more thorough you are the more likely you are to maximise the money you’re making.

Manage your stock


Managing your stock and inventory is so important if you want to make money. There are plenty of stock management tools like Veeqo, Asset Panda and Sortly that help you stay on top of your products and alert you when you need to take action. If you mismanage your stock you may lose out on profit and may have to resort to cutting the price of products in order to shift stock.

How to improve sales in retail business


Making money and improving sales are two very different things. It’s possible to improve sales but make less money when you factor in costs. Improving sales isn’t always a case of reducing prices and offering the cheapest product on the market.

Be clever


How you position your products can have an impact on sales. For a physical shop, do some research about shelf positioning and how to draw customer’s eyes to the products you want them to buy. Consider what you have next to your checkout as an extra little purchase.

For an online retail business, do some testing. A/B testing can help you find the best and most effective elements to have on your website and increase sales. This can be everything from images to the copy and descriptions you use. Equal amounts of traffic go to both variations and whichever has the highest number of conversions is the winner. You can then roll out this approach across all your products.



In order to succeed in retail you really need to know your customers inside out. There are many different ways you can conduct research.

  • Talk to your customers. Ask them if they found what they were looking for, what could be improved, what they liked. You might find that you can learn a lot just by having a conversation.
  • Send out surveys via email or social media to ask for people’s opinions.
  • Research your competitors to see how they operate. What are they doing differently to you? What can you learn from that? Understanding your unique selling point will help give you direction and focus on products that your customers will truly love.

You can then take your findings and develop marketing messages, new product lines, rearrange your store layout and more. If you try to apply everything you learn you may find you build up a strong loyal customer base who recommend your shop and help boost your sales.

Work hard and reap the rewards


There’s so much more we could say and this really is the tip of the iceberg. What it all comes down to though is hard work. To succeed in retail you have to be willing to work hard and learn every step of the way.

If you’re looking to find out about how to scale a retail business, why not head over to our blog and read our tips on scaling up.

How could Esme help?

If you’re looking for a business loan to invest in your retail business, then get an instant quote on our website today. We offer unsecured business loans from £10,000* to £250,000 that can be applied for online using our quick 10 minute application form. If you’re approved, you could have the money in your account within an hour.

*£25,500 for sole traders