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  • The value of trade associations to your retail business

    December 13, 2016

  • Small businesses create 60% of private sector jobs and account for 99% of businesses in the UK, including in the retail sector.

    Consumers are increasingly appreciative of their contribution, with 20% more shopping at independent retailers than a year ago, and 85% of people visiting at least once a month.

    But while the broad trends depict a thriving sector, challenges remain – and business trade associations can help your business meet them.

    Facing challenges

    Small retailers cover a range of shopping sectors from beauty parlours to wine merchants, taking many different forms from sole traders working at markets to limited companies expanding their high street presence. Despite this diversity, many small retailers face similar challenges.

    Attracting shoppers as they continue to move online, finding the best staff, meeting legal requirements in health and safety and getting taxation and insurance right can be tough. Take the beauty sector, for example. Salon insurance might meet different needs to hairdressers' insurance or beauty therapy insurance depending on the nature of your operation, so how do you get it right?

    Unified diversity

    Grouping together has long been a way for small retailers to forge a stronger front against larger corporate rivals. This instinct has produced some of the most vibrant areas of UK town centres, including London’s Brick Lane and Manchester’s Northern Quarter. It creates a focal point for consumers as well as a useful marketing angle, and helps investors and governments see their great potential.

    However, acting collectively isn’t just about the value of being close to like-minded retailers – it’s about leveraging your voices, finances and political power to solve other business problems, too.

    Trade associations and professional bodies

    Trade associations are founded, funded and run by business members from a specific sector. They run campaigns and offer services that can benefit small businesses.

    Small business trade associations such as the National Hairdressers' Federation, for example, offers members legal contracts, training courses, accountancy services and resources to help understand things like hairdressing insurance. Trade associations also help boost sales through initiatives like the Association of Cycle Traders’ marketing guides and bespoke loyalty cards.

    Larger bodies like the Federation of Small Businesses and the Independent Retailers Confederation tend to focus on broader issues like lobbying the government on tax, business rates and investment – although they’re also a great resource for legal documents and large networking events.

    By engaging with trade bodies, you can retain the independence that makes your business special, but also become part of something bigger that can help your business thrive in the long term. And that’s an invaluable resource in today’s economy.  

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