Coffee shops turn independence to their advantage

Last month Costa Coffee suffered an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the people of Totnes.

Residents of the Devon town reacted with such disdain to plans for a Costa branch that the chain decided to abandon its new venture, despite having already been granted planning permission.

The move was widely considered to represent a victory for independence and an illustration that, in certain limited circumstances, the public retains some control over the character of its High Street.

Independent coffee shops might be struggling under the weight of austerity, but the public is keener than ever to use their pound carefully. This has meant a surge in interest in independent food and drink retailers – and the trend looks set to continue.

So how can you capitalise on the new enthusiasm for independence?

Be brash

Don’t be shy when it comes to your independence. The public mood is favourable, and you should therefore ensure that you make your potential customers aware. Consider adding a reference to your independence to all of the appropriate marketing materials to remind potential customers that you represent an alternative to the chains.

Team up

There is strength in numbers, even for independents. You might think about teaming up with other independent retailers in your area, and thinking about how you might work together. For example, you might offer a discount to customers of another independent shop, and they might reciprocate. This can help to increase footfall for all of those involved, while fostering a sense of independent community.

Approach societies

Local societies provide a rich seam of potential custom for local cafes. Contact your local Rotary Club, book groups, political societies and so on, and ask if they would like to hold meetings in your premises. Once you have begun the relationship, these organisations often represent valuable repeat custom.

Remember loyalty

Many of the country’s best-known chain cafes now operate loyalty schemes, either on paper cards or plastic. But loyalty isn’t just for the big names. Think about starting your own scheme, for example offering a free coffee for every half dozen purchased. This can help to encourage repeat custom, while acting as a reminder of your café every time a loyalty card holder looks in their wallet. Read more about loyalty schemes.