Retail NI is delighted to support the Retailer of the Year category at this year's Belfast Telegraph Business Awards.
These are challenging times for our retail sector, as 2020 will be the year of reinvention for our sector and for our high streets and town centres. Now more than ever we need to see bold new leadership in the retail sector.
That's why the judges in this year's awards want to see as many entries as possible from retail leaders, demonstrating how they have led the transformation of their business in this rapid period of change.
In short we want to hear from the retail change-makers.
So what attributes might the Retailer of the Year have?
Firstly, 2020 will see the creation of more confident and dynamic independent retailers, who will be at the cutting edge of a new retail sector, leading toward 21st century town high streets.
These are retailer entrepreneurs who are innovators and trendsetters.
Consumer behaviour is rapidly changing and people want something different from their high streets and I believe that smaller, more agile and tech-savvy retailers who can adapt to this tidal wave of change will be the ones who will not just survive, but thrive.
Looking at the big names such as Mothercare, Poundworld and Carpetright and many others that have closed their doors in the last few years, you would be forgiven for thinking that we are seeing the death of the high street. However, rather than its demise, we are actually seeing the restructuring of the high street.
Like any restructuring process, there are always casualties. To survive and indeed thrive in retail, it is a constant process of change and innovation.
Another important factor for 21st century retailers is their commitment to sourcing local and giving something back to the local economy and the community.
For our annual Independents' Day campaign, Retail NI commissioned research, carried out by Perceptive Insight in May 2018, revealing 59% of consumers surveyed used their local stores for a basket food top-up shop up to three times a week, and also showed that 71% spent between £20 and £500 on a single visit to local, independently owned stores.
The report also revealed the biggest deciding factor for visiting an independent store was to support local businesses (62%), as well as better customer service (32%) and the convenience of local shops (36%).
Seventy pence in every pound spent with a local independent retailer is recycled around the local economy, supporting local farmers, producers and manufacturers. The Retailer of the Year needs to successfully demonstrate their commitment to the local supply chain.
We also want the Retailer of the Year to have a strong track record of staff development. Kip Tindell, CEO of the American retailer Container Store, rightly said: "Too many businesses today are based on driving prices lower by screwing over somebody, pounding suppliers or squeezing employees. We're the opposite. We put employees first, radically… if you take care of them, they will take care of your customer better than anybody else."
Do you think you have what it takes to be the Retailer of the Year?
If so, get your application in!