SHOP ‘TILL YOU DROP Melissa Moore, who lives in Cong, runs The Retail Advisor website.
WHEN you ask Melissa Moore (also known as The Retail Advisor) for a word that best describes the last 12 months for the independent business owners and creators she has worked with, one springs to mind immediately: ‘resilience’.
Most of them have had to close their doors for months on end, but many of them have adapted and any that could have moved online. And there are plenty of success stories.
“It’s been an incredibly tough year for retailers, but they are incredibly resilient,” explained Melissa, who trains and mentors independent retailers, creators and craft-makers from her home office in Cong.
“A lot of them took the likes of the Enterprise Ireland grant or the LEO [Local Enterprise Office] grant to move online and develop that side of their businesses.
“It’s not a ‘magic fix’ obviously, but a lot of small, independent businesses have been able to connect with customers in a different way. Initially, when the pandemic hit, it was all about survival. A lot of smaller retailers weren’t online so it was about trying to take that first step.
“There was a real boost then during the summer when things opened up a bit.
“When the second lockdown hit, retailers were much better prepared for that.
“They were online already and ready for Christmas which is the busiest time of the year for most of them. And this time around they are ready to go as soon as the restrictions are eased.
“The word I’ve used more than any other over the last year is ‘resilience’,” she continued.
“I have met some incredibly resilient business owners during that time. And there is no doubt that once you have people to talk to, you realise that there are always people who have been there before you. So it’s about connecting with them.”
That is where Melissa comes in.
With over 20 years experience working for national and international brands like Brown Thomas, IKEA and Kilkenny Design, she is well qualified to give advice to retailers.
She and her husband moved from Dublin to Mayo five years ago because they ‘wanted a better work-life balance’ and 18 months ago ‘The Retail Advisor’ business was born.
Melissa cites some examples of local businesses who have embraced a new way of doing things during this time of Covid-19 restrictions, 5km limits and lockdown rules.
“Scallywags, which are based in Claremorris and Tuam, is a massive example of a retail business that has really embraced engaging with their customers. “Through videos on social media they show us their products and show us around their shops. And they show the customer bundles of items which makes it really simple then to pop online and order what you need. It’s such an easy customer journey.
“Deirdre Biggins, who runs a shop in Ballinrobe, has been incredible in that regard too. Spring/summer is such a big time for clothes retailers and for me, as a retail advisor, Deirdre is a fantastic example of somebody who ‘buys in’ well. She has really developed the online side of her business brilliantly during the pandemic.”
Melissa believes that businesses need ‘to engage and communicate with customers more than ever now’ and advises getting their message across ‘in their own individual way’.
She also reminds us that ‘these local businesses are experts in their own field’ and that by supporting them we ‘are supporting local businesses and local jobs’.
Melissa also has some simple and effective advice for any women thinking of going into business.
“Go and chat to someone about it. Whether that’s someone close to you, someone like me, or your Local Enterprise Office. Go and talk through your idea with someone with experience.
“The ‘Empower’ programmes which are run out of GMIT in Castlebar are a great place to help you develop you idea as well.
“The Mayo branch of ‘Network Ireland’ is a group that I’ve got involved in and I find it great. It’s a really nice, friendly group that meet online regularly to have a chat, share ideas and learn from each other. The great thing about it is that you can learn from women who have more experience and can empathise with what you’re going through, because they’ve been there. As my husband says, ‘What’s the worst thing that can happen?’
Visit Melissa’s website at www.theretailadvisor.ie to download a free Sales Workbook.