Five ways to promote your retail business during lockdown...for free

12 Nov 2020

While your shop may be classed as non-essential and therefore closed during lockdown, there are still many things you can do now to either promote elements of your business that you are still operating, or encourage interest within your local community in order to increase footfall when you do reopen.

The key is communication; utilise all channels at your disposal – there are more than you think, and clarity; be clear when communicating the changes to your business. Make sure all public information is up to date and correct as of now, then keep updating this when you need to (for example don’t update it now so it’s ready for when you reopen). 

So, here we have listed a few ways to promote your business. Some may work for your individual business situation and some may not. Take it as inspiration to see how you can increase your exposure both on and offline in these challenging times.  


Make use of your window display  

For non-essential businesses that have unfortunately had to close, your shop window is your key opportunity to promote the products you stock and how they can be purchased. Are you offering a delivery service, click and collect, call and collect? Can they be purchased online? If yes, by communicating this clearly on your shop window, you won’t miss out on all the custom you’d usually receive via those passing by.  

With Christmas coming up, it’s time to get creative with how you can make the most of those festive season sales. Go all out with a Christmas window display that will get your community talking (you could then enter our Christmas window display competition too!). Follow the theme on your social media channels and your website too. Share messaging about popular products this season in the lead up to the planned reopening.  

Offer a service where customers can call and reserve or pre-pay for Christmas gifts which can simply be collected when you reopen (or during their essentials trips out) – you could even offer a gift-wrapping add-on service so they can be sure it’ll be wrapped and ready in time for Christmas. Make it clear you’ll hold the goods until they are available to collect.  


For those that are currently open, the window and door is your key opportunity to let your customers know about the safety regulations you’re adhering to inside. Do you have a one-way system in operation? Do you only allow customers wearing masks into the shop? Do you have restrictions on how many people can be in the shop at once? As you’ll have seen, chain retailers are using television adverts and other large scale marketing activity to let consumers know what social distancing regulations they have implemented to ensure their customers feel safe when visiting. While you may not have television adverts at your disposal, using your shop window to clearly communicate these messages will go a long way to make those passing by confident that they’ll be safe in your shop.  

We’ve created a selection of posters for you to download, print and display in your shop – they include ‘please wear a mask’ and ‘Hands, Face, Space’ messaging. Find the posters here 


Social media 

While you may be closed for this period, your social media channels will become the voice of your business. It’s a great opportunity to get some additional followers and show them the personality behind the business.  

Communicate any additional services you’ve recently started offering, a change to opening times, any special product offerings (for example a ‘lockdown pamper pack’, a ‘DIY essentials tool kit’ or a ‘dining-in cooking set for beginners’).  

Your social media channels are a great way to share what’s in demand and create an element of urgency; shout about limited-availability stock and re-posting when items are sold out. A call and collect service and local delivery service are quick and simple ways you can cater for potential customers in the social space.  


Get your key business details listed on Google  

The information you have listed on Google is more important than ever. This is how your customers will be quickly finding which shops are open and which ones aren’t 

If there’s one tip you take away, make it this one – if you haven’t already, verify your business with Google to ensure your key business details (address, opening times, phone number and website) are readily available for your customers to see on a Google search. Better still, add some photos of the inside and outside of your shop and a short description about the products you stock. If a new potential customer likes what they see, they may be happy enough to wait until you reopen to purchase it. Verify your business and complete your profile here 

If you already have this set up, check that it’s up to date with your current business opening times and other details regularly as we navigate through this time of change. 

With any extra time you may have during lockdown, we’d also recommend you have a look at getting set up with Pointy from Google too. For a one-off payment for a Pointy box (just £50 for Bira members), you’ll be able to get the individual products you stock automatically listed on your Google profile too. Order now so it’s delivered and set up in time for your re-opening. Find out more about it here. 


Email your regulars  

If you’ve done the hard work in gathering a data list of customers that have given their consent for you to email, don’t waste it - this is a key opportunity! Let them know personally that you are doing what you can to either offer a service during lockdown or to reopen safely as soon as you can. Whatever your messaging, this channel of communication should be utilised as a way to keep your customers informed while you can’t physically.  



This may seem like a more obvious one, but it’s worth pointing out the danger in thinking as non-essential retail is in lockdown, you can take your foot off the pedal when it comes to your website. The truth is, whether you sell products on your website or not, it’s more important than ever that it’s up to date.  

Your website should be the main place that all your messaging comes together. Whatever youre saying in your shop windows, instore (if applicable)on social media, in emails and on your Google profile, this should unify them all and offer further information when necessary.  Include all key messaging relevant you your business and be clear and concise. You may consider: 

  • Any new services you are offering, such as: 
    • Click and collect 
    • Call and collect  
    • Drop shipping  
    • Online purchasing 
    • Delivery service (include what days you will be delivering on and what areas if it’s only local delivery) 
  • Opening times /dates – make it clear if these are estimated (e.g. we plan to reopen on the 2nd December…) 
  • COVID-secure messaging including your support of government initiatives like Hands, Face, Space)  
  • Lockdown/Festive product bundles  
  • Christmas product trends (find product inspiration and offers from our buying group here) 
  • Special offers  


During these challenging times for the independent retail sector, we must get creative and do what small businesses do well; adapt in ways we didn’t expect to need to. This may mean offering new services or venturing online but they may be changes that prove valuable in the long term and help strengthen your business all the more when you’re able to reopen and get back to the new normal.  

Additional Guidance and Resources

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