BIRA confirms my worst fears

May 2013

In last month’s comment I asserted that the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) were out of touch and doing little or nothing to help secure a viable and long-term future for their members. I quoted their CEO and highlighted the utter naivety of his comment that independent retailers should “Embrace new ideas such as internet trading” – something he stated in early 2013, not 1995. (By the way, I selected that year because that’s when Amazon started to trade and in so doing immediately threatened the survival of BIRA’s membership.)

Being the decent sort of person I am though, I thought it only reasonable to give BIRA the opportunity to respond to my stinging attack. So I posted a link on their Facebook page to the appropriate page on my website, then invited them to read it and asked that we have a ‘healthy and constructive debate’.

Did that debate happen? Did it hell: I had one very lame response from a director of BIRA who sought to defend his CEO’s comments (why bother defending the indefensible…) but that was it. No official response from BIRA, let alone anything personal from their CEO along the lines of asking for my help, or anyone else’s help (plenty of better qualified experts out there than me), to get their house in order and therefore do something constructive to help their membership.

But of course, I shouldn’t be surprised because BIRA’s Facebook page is the embodiment of their wider understanding of a digital world. In what way? They don’t manage it and probably don’t even look at it regularly – e.g. they’ve put just one post on it since February this year (and, ironically, that was to blow their own trumpet about something). There’s no dialogue with their members, and actually that’s partly because only 73 people have liked the page! (There are apparently 7,500 members of BIRA – do the maths…) A Facebook page for an organisation like BIRA should be awash with lively conversation and ideas about best practice. BIRA members would want to follow it, and engage with it, because there was interesting and relevant stuff on it every day of the week. Facebook is simply made for this type of use.

And at the slight risk of labouring the point, back in May BIRA had a (rare) guest blogger on their website who wrote a very good piece about the importance of engaging with social media (in the context of independent retailers doing it). So you would have thought, would you not, that BIRA’s leadership just might have concluded: ‘Hey guys – maybe we should engage with our members in the same way given we already have a Facebook page? And as a start point why don’t we post a link to this insightful blog post on our Facebook page?’ I am of course now fantasising, because no such thing happened.

Any independent retailers fancy starting up a proper trade organisation with the aim of securing a long-term future for the sector? If yes, contact me and let’s get it moving – and you’ll get my help and time for absolutely nothing.

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