The internet, king, or killer?
In response to the article in the Cambridge News 16th January 2017, I think that, depending on your mindset, the internet can be viewed as a king coming to the rescue of your independent business or a killer delivering the final blow. Today, however, it is virtually impossible to ignore the internet and still grow a successful business, you must look to ways to embrace the opportunities it presents.
Entrepreneurs such as Neil Mackay, using the many online buying platforms to grow his business and Paul Warner, who decided to operate his business as an online retailer, saving £1000s in rent, are great examples of independent retailers who have used technology to deliver real value to their customers and to enhance their lifestyles.
In Cambridge rental is high but stores are inventive. We see examples of retailers using sites temporarily for pop-ups, such as the wonderful Fantasia on Mill Road. We are seeing the growth of successful food vans, such as Steak and Honour whose success has prompted their first restaurant in Wheeler Street. And we see a whole host of businesses operating on bikes and from the market square. But to grow and reach more people the internet must form some part of your plan.
Setting up e-commerce sites is expensive, but there are cost-effective solutions for independent businesses getting started. We have long moved from the traditional high street store; everything can now be found online, so a store is not necessarily the starting place for most businesses. Instead, there are directories, recommendation websites, and social media opportunities that can allow you to test your market and business concept before committing to long rental agreements. Perhaps like recommendation sites, multiple complementary businesses will partner up to afford rents. I am sure that someone in this exciting city will find a way to keep the independent soul of the Cambridge alive.
Dawn Giesler is the founder of Scuseme Cambridge an online site recommending local independent experts.