Hundreds of small businesses are to take part in a campaign to save Britain’s ailing high streets inspired by a multi-millionaire entrepreneur who believes failed firms only have themselves to blame.
The 14 Days of Love campaign – brainchild of Solihull-based Nigel Botterill – aims to raise awareness of the plight faced by small firms.
The initiative will encourage people to submit recommendations and testimonials online for their favourite business, with the chance to win prizes. It is hoped the site will then be used as a tool for consumers to find the top-rated firms – boosting their trade.
Mr Botterill, 44, who has clinched seven business awards and written a best-selling book called The Botty Rules offering advice to small firms wanting to succeed, said: “This campaign is a fantastic way for the general public to show their support for local, independent businesses.
“We’re all aware of the situation the UK economy is currently facing, however, this campaign proves that the local community can make a real difference to our economy and pride.
“We can’t rely on the Government’s support anymore – it’s up to us to make a difference to the survival of our town’s high streets.
“One way we can do this is by showing some real love for our local businesses this February.”
Mr Botterill has come a long way since starting his career aged 16, working for a bank. He went on to work for several other firms, working closely with Midland billionaire John Caudwell, who proved so inspirational, Mr Botterill decided to quit his job to start his own marketing consultancy business, N5 Ltd, in 2003.
Mr Botterill launched the online business directory www.thebestof.co.uk in 2005, which now has 200 franchises across the UK and the next year set up Raring2go, a magazine offering a guide on what to do and where to go with children, which he sold in 2008.
The same year he launched My Little Wrapper, a personalised chocolate bar firm. This was followed by Explosive Marketing, a company offering promotional services for restaurants.
Having proved a success in his own right, he set up the Entrepreneur’s Circle, offering his business know-how. Last year his empire expanded with the launch of Peel2Save, a loyalty card scheme for shoppers in Solihull.
Mr Botterill believes retailers should stop blaming the recession and take responsibilty for their own demise.
“Everyone is quick to blame the Government, but the reality is that retailers are 100 per cent responsible for their own success or, indeed, failure,” he said.
“Yes, there’s been a recession, but many stores – be it big chains or little independents – are surviving and doing well. There’s no reason others can’t.
“Despite the economic climate, I’ve had the best 12 months financially I’ve ever had, and by some margin. Consumers may have less to spend but they are still willing to spend what they have, as long as you sell them something they want, something that’s relevant.”
He praised the city’s independent successes, including fashion store Disorder in Needless Alley, off New Street, Birmingham.
Run by Mark Howard, it sells one-off bespoke fashion. It was named by retail tsar Mary Portas as Birmingham’s Best Independent Retailer in 2007.
“This is an example of offering something unique and forward thinking,” adds Mr Botterill. “There’s no use businesses wailing and whining, that’s not going to make anything happen.”
He also said many Midland retailers have failed to take advantage of the growing social media phenomena.
“Many firms haven’t even registered on Google Places, which is free and has been around for three years,” he says. “If someone searches for the business on the site, it comes up as the front page, giving fantastic exposure.
“There are simple things that independent shops could adopt from big chains such as Tesco.
“It has Clubcards, which shoppers want as they get special offers, but it’s a great way for Tesco to collect a database of information about their customers, from personal information to knowing exactly what they buy.
“They can then use this information to target those customers to get them back in the shop spending more money.”
For more information about The 14 Days of Love campaign, visit www.thebestof.co.uk/loveometer