Executive Hire News › Archives › October 2019 › Forum : Hirers buck the trend
Forum : Hirers buck the trend
The difficulties faced by high street retailers are often in the news. A report published last month by PricewaterhouseCoopers and the Local Data Company, and quoted in The Guardian, suggested that the number of shops, pubs and restaurants lying empty is rising at the fastest pace in nearly a decade.
The analysis pointed out that several major chains have gone into administration this year, with some household name firms amongst them. And, while some of those chains are still in business, having been taken over by new owners after their collapse, they have closed certain outlets.
This has led some of the UK’s biggest retailers to demand a review of business rates and other taxes, to help them compete with online rivals as consumers’ buying habits change.
The report did not include independent shops but, of course, they are faced with the same retail challenges of rising overheads and internet-based competitors. Nevertheless, the analysis did find some more optimistic high street experiences, with outlets such as takeaways, health clubs and, even, pet shops reporting expansion.
While not all independent hirers have traditional high street locations, there is evidence in this issue of EHN that some have been able to combat the trend and are still successfully attracting consumers into their premises.
In the article beginning on page 11, we visit the single-depot independent, WM Plant in Carlisle. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, the company recognises that “our main challenge, apart from business rates and unreasonable competition, is the internet.” So it has differentiated itself by offering benefits that cannot be obtained online, such as try-before-you-buy schemes, repairs, product clinics and, perhaps above all, knowledgeable staff who can provide help and advice. The business is known in its locality and beyond because customers know they will find what they need, and from a single source.
On pages 24 and 25, we hold a Q&A session with Steve Hitchen, MD of Chorley-based One Stop Hire - another business in celebratory mood as it is marking its tenth anniversary this month. Like many other hirers, the company has a retail area at each of its 14 depots, offering consumables and other items. It also runs a dedicated sales operation. This enables customers to buy what they need to complement their hired equipment, and being able to buy stock in volume makes for keen prices.
In addition, in our September issue we reported on Phoenix Hire & Sales. It now has several equipment dealerships alongside its main hire activity and this brings customers into its depots throughout South Wales. Phoenix recently opened a depot in Swansea and deliberately chose a location on a retail park - not a trading estate - in order to attract potential customers more easily.
In other words, hirers are successfully winning new business and attracting consumers into their shops, somewhat against the trend reported above. So how are they achieving this? Perhaps it comes down to trust. In the same way that contractors and tradesmen respect hirers’ ability to listen to their requirements and offer the most appropriate equipment for the task at hand, so members of the public appreciate how they can provide quality products that are fit for purpose.
Indeed, many consumers may have been caught out previously by the low quality of tools and equipment bought via the internet. Their initial satisfaction about cheap pricing might have been
short-lived owing to the poor standard of a product, or the difficulty in obtaining parts and service backup.
Besides trust, perhaps another reason why more hirers have successful retail activities is that they know their customers and build relationships with them. Many hirers hold open days, breakfast briefings, demonstrations and advice sessions to attract visitors. They also use CRM software to keep touch via phone and email, as well as social media to raise their brands’ profile - which, incidentally, we discuss on pages 29 and 31.
The trading picture might not be a completely rosy one, given the uncertain political background, but while other sectors seem to be turning their backs on traditional retail opportunities, some hirers are once again bucking the trend and positively embracing them.