Our new ranking of up-and-coming retailers illustrates the vibrancy of UK retailing, says Chloe Rigby
The sheer breadth and depth of UK retail is showcased for the first time in the InternetRetailing Growth 2000 report. RetailX researchers have produced a ranking that includes established names alongside up-and-coming retailers, using metrics that analyse online and offline presence and visibility in the market. These 2,000 retailers represent an industry of impressive diversity, from online sweet shops to beer specialists, from fashion brands to specialists in technology, clothing and more.
These are the 2,000 traders that sit below the Top500 that we’ve documented over four years of research into the UK’s leading retailers. We identified retailers in both lists through an initial ‘Footprint’ study, which included measuring their store estates, online and offline revenues, and web traffic. In this report, we look at the 2,000 retailers immediately following the Top500 in terms of Footprint.
It’s a list that includes familiar British names, including Brompton Bicycle, The British Museum Shop and the Great Little Trading Company. It also includes international sites that are doing significant business in the UK, from Spanish department store El Corte Inglés to German travel company bücher.de, Australian website costumes.com.au and, from the US, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store. Designer fashion brands Donna Karan, Fiorucci, Hermes and Duchamp London are listed here alongside homewares brands Hoover, Kitchenaid and Breville. All these are among the rising tide of brands selling direct. Some leading brands already feature in the Top500. This list offers evidence there are plenty more challenger brands, both new and long-standing. Other retailers with a new business model include subscription beauty box business Birchbox, veg box company Riverford Organic Farms and meat box supplier Field & Flower. Chic by Choice and Girl Meets Dress both offer dress rental.
Some less well-known names have interesting and innovative approaches. Ann’s Cottage, for example, started as a shop within a petrol station at Polzeath, Cornwall back in 1978. The business now has ten shops, including a clearance warehouse, and its website features the latest updates on the surf at many Cornish beaches – including live web cams. This is one of a number of regionally based retailers that are using the internet to bring a retail business that started with a local geographic focus to a wider audience.
The ranking also speaks to a wide range of specialist retailers now supplying shoppers online, from Ironmongery Direct and Chinese Motorcycle Parts Online to Cult Pens, Loveknitting.com and Jigsaw Puzzles Direct. A long roster of sports and outdoors suppliers starts, in alphabetical order, with Alpine Trek and continues to Yeomans Outdoor Leisure, by way of both Angling Active and Angling Direct, and Lovell Rugby, among many others.
Altogether, this ranking illustrates a vibrant and varied retail industry, operating in competitive conditions where retailers must move and improve constantly in order to keep their place in the market. Amid this plethora of retailers fighting for attention, niche stores that offer knowledgeable services to a well-defined community may outcompete the Top500 retailers in their depth of knowledge and personal service, even though their turnover, web traffic and store network are smaller.
For this group, success may mean the ability to give existing customers the detailed, knowledgeable service they require, attracting others through word of mouth and a niche position. Businesses may already be selling to similar customers in different parts of the world, whether directly through their own websites or via online marketplaces. An ability to win new business may come from these retailers’ visibility when shoppers search for the items that they sell, their engagement with shoppers via channels such as Facebook or Instagram, or they may reap the rewards of a mobile-first or mobile-only approach, as they serve on-the-go shoppers. Being relevant is also important in building businesses that may only operate online or with a relatively small number of stores. That relevance may be about offering personalised goods, or services, or it may be about being local, or sharing the customer’s values.
In this report, we’re focusing on how the Growth 2000 (G2K) perform in four key areas that we believe are a key part of growing, and not just surviving, online in a hyper-competitive market.
We’re looking at how they use search and website navigation to stand out and to drive higher conversion rates, at how they enable shoppers to buy from mobile devices, at how they enable convenient and timely services through delivery, returns and collections, and at how they build a following via social media channels where engagement persists beyond the website visit. These are areas where metrics such as share of voice, and share of search are key to understanding the reach that these up-and-coming businesses enjoy, and how others might emulate them.
These businesses doubtless have clues for us as to how the retailers that lead in the UK market will change over the next few years. The rise of the niche pureplay, of retailers selling products from subscription boxes to own-brand goods and beyond, of the regional retailer and of the exporting retailer, are all reflected in this list.
We’ll also now be tracking their progress over time, as these businesses further develop their existing specialisms, move up to the Top500, or are replaced by other up-and-coming retailers with new models that are as yet to be revealed.