Surviving the brave new world of retail: How to cut small business costs

Small business costs are making it tougher for retailers to survive on the high streets of the UK these days, as rents and other costs rise...

Even though the UK’s economy is slowly recovering from the global financial crash and the recession this caused, times are still hard for a lot of businesses in the retail industry.

As members of the public have tightened their purse-strings in an attempt to fend off financial difficulties, retailers have found it increasingly difficult to attract and keep customers.

That has led to many dropping their prices aggressively in a bid to steal a march on their rivals, but this is not necessarily the best way to go forward for those that are trying to put together a sustainable future for their business.

Fortunately, just as the old saying goes, there is more than one way to skin a cat, there is more than one way to run a company. The best entrepreneurs will always find a fresh and innovative way to move their business forward and cut small business costs, rather than copying what everyone else is doing.

High street decline

One of the reasons why the retail sector has found life so hard in the last few years centres around the decline of the UK’s high street.

Up and down the country, high streets have been decimated by administrations and shop closures. In many towns, especially those where the financial situation remains grim, town centres are now full of pawnbrokers, bookmakers, bargain stores, charity shops and little else.

There are myriad reasons for this. High rents are one of them and many business owners simply cannot afford to have a presence on the local high street any more. Another is that as space has become more in demand, it is often more suitable for consumers to do their shopping at an out-of-town retail centre where they can park their car and visit a number of different stores in one hit.

Of course, another major factor has been the rise of the internet. With members of the public able to do their shopping from the sofa on their smartphones and tablets, or even during their lunch break on their office PC, many no longer have a reason to go to their local high street.

So what can firms do?

Many retailers have responded to the decline in the British high street by moving away from bricks-and-mortar stores to go wholly online instead. However, this is not suitable for all companies and many will still need to have physical shops because of the nature of the goods they sell.

Therefore finding ways to save money will be on the agenda for a lot of businesses this year. Again, there are plenty of ways to go about doing this but they broadly fall into two main categories: improving efficiency and reducing waste.

While there is a clear link between these two areas, there are differences between them as well. Cutting waste might involve letting staff members go who are not contributing enough to the success of the business, while boosting efficiency is likely to involve finding ways to make companies run more effectively.

One part of an organisation that entrepreneurs often forget about is printing, which can prove to be a major expense once the total costs have been added up. But surely printing is an area it is impossible to cut? After all, workers are going to need to print off documents? Wrong.

Ineffective print

Many firms are running a wholly inefficient print strategy as they have given hardly any thought to it, meaning cash is being wasted on running too many devices and buying more consumables than are really needed.

This is where print services come in. By auditing the print usage of a firm, it is easy to identify where waste is occurring and take action to make sure this is cut, or removed entirely. Organisations are increasingly signing up to print services plans as they find they can reap a lot of rewards by doing so.

With the latest government data for the retail sector showing that there was a 0.3 per cent rise in the amount spent in the retail industry during March 2014, compared to the previous month, there are signs the industry might be moving towards a brighter future.

However, that does not mean companies can afford to get complacent and business owners need to be examining all of their options to boost productivity, reduce waste, improve efficiency and at the end of the day, raise the bottom line of the business.