Retail industry leaders and peak bodies are urging bricks-and-mortar merchants to adopt innovative marketing strategies post JobKeeper to attract customers, saying government support in the form of a $5,000 loan would be a helpful boost.
While the National Retail Association (NRA) supports the government’s $6,000 ecommerce loans for retailers looking to go online, it says not all retailers can make their businesses digital and that there is a need for retailers that are reliant on foot traffic and face-to-face purchases to revamp and refreshen their exteriors to help attract customers to their bricks-and-mortar stores.
“Ecommerce is going to be essential for many businesses going forward, but not all businesses can go online,” said Dominique Lamb, CEO of NRA. “What many retailers desperately need are loans so they can freshen up their public facing branding to attract customers and help keep them afloat during this period of instability. We’re calling on the government to grant small businesses $5,000 loans.”
COVID lockdowns and online shopping have severely impacted foot traffic for retail businesses. Retail represented just more than 20% of all businesses that closed their doors from June 2019 and March 30th 2020, based on ABS statistics.
And the challenge to bricks-and-mortar stores isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; a study conducted by Monash University has revealed that Australian shoppers expect to use ecommerce shopping channels by about 31% more due to COVID-19.
“In terms of industry survival, stores that were able to pivot to online platforms have been able to protect themselves and maintain a source of revenue,” said Lamb. “However, we are concerned for stores that require a customer to physically inspect items before committing to a purchase – like furniture, electronics and homeware stores, for example.
“It’s much harder for these retailers to go digital because of the purchasing process. They need physical marketing tactics to attract customers, like shop signage,” she said.
Mike Toweel, CEO of VitrineMedia, a lightbox and signage company that uses the science of ‘cold white light’ – the type of light used in Tokyo and New York’s Times Square – to unconsciously attract the eye, has been busy during COVID helping businesses boost foot traffic and sales.
“Studies have shown different types of light evoke different reactions in the brain,” explained Toweel. “Cold white light engages the brain in a way that warm yellow light doesn’t. That’s a great light for relaxing, but if you want to grab attention, you want cold white light, which illuminates very successfully. That’s why it’s used in aquariums.”
Renish Satani, the Founder and Director of new Adelaide-based mobile phone company, Pop Phones, agrees, saying the pilot project at his Golden Grove Village store was so successful that he has since installed the VitrineMedia screens at his other outlets in the city and at northern suburbs shopping centres, Hollywood Plaza and Munno Para.
“When we were forced to close doors during the first lockdown, we could not rely on online sales like other stores and had to look at other solutions to draw in customers,” said Satani. “We used our indoor VitrineMedia signs to advertise our monthly promotions and specials and, within weeks, sales of these items grew by some 10%.”
The NRA’s Lamb is not suggesting that the government should provide grants but loans to businesses that are currently cash strapped.