This list underpins the choice of the top shops in Hastings and St Leonard's, which appears on Hastings Battleaxe.
1. Advertise opening hours clearly, and stick to them consistently
Make sure opening hours are clearly listed outside the shop, and are consistent with those listed on websites, in local guides etc. Once hours are listed, stick to them. If staff have to leave the shop unattended during opening hours, avoid the 'Back in five minutes' notice on the door. Instead, the notice should show the time the shop will re-open. If you have changed hours for holiday periods, make sure these changes are advertised clearly and well in advance.
2. Have a sensible pricing strategy
Unless you sell something very necessary and specific, you want to attract browsers into your shop, and to convert browsers into buyers. Enough items in the shop must be at a price that an average browser in the area will readily pay for an impulse buy.. People enjoy buying things, they will feel good about the shop if they do buy something - then they will get to know you and return for more expensive items. We are not talking about running Poundland here, but too much overpriced/expensive stock is a recipe for failure. On the other hand, don't have too much reduced/sale stock constantly on display - people do like a bargain, but it also looks a bit tired and desperate. Make sales infrequent, and special.
3. Control stock
Shops with too little stock on display are daunting, and unappealing to the browser. Too much stock is just as bad. Too much money is tied up in it, you can't display it properly, and it is confusing for the shopper. Given too much choice, they often leave with nothing. Vintage shops are often bad at this. If shoppers have to struggle to look through tightly packed rails, clothes get damaged, and people lose heart. Make sure stock on display is renewed/changed round sufficiently often to keep customers interested.
4. Make the shop, and the stock, pleasant and easy for customers to navigate.
If you have a clothes shop, make sure it is warm enough for shoppers to want to try things on. Have enough mirrors and a comfortable changing space. Display stock so customers can access it. Make sure everything has a clearly marked price, and for clothes, the size. Have a seat or two available - and definitely have a 'man creche' if you sell women's clothes. Give people space to browse - for example, don't display cards right by the shop door, or in a narrow passage. Make sure shop, stock and staff are clean, and all smell nice.
5. Ensure staff are 'customer aware'
All customers should be greeted when they enter the shop, and staff should then ascertain if they want something specific, or would prefer to be left to browse. Staff should be knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the stock, friendly, accessible, but not intrusive. Staff should not chat to their colleagues, friends, or on the phone to such an extent that customers feel ignored, or as if they are intruding. Customers like it when staff remember them from previous visits - they will often choose small shops over big chains because of the personal factor.
These things sound simple, and don't cost money. Very often, small shops don't do them. Such shops come and go quickly in areas like Hastings and St Leonard's - the margin between success and failure is small.