Is shopkeeping the art of retail?

7 01 2013

It’s been famously said that Britain is a nation of shopkeepers, and whilst the term itself seems old fashioned, good old fashioned shopkeeping practices are increasingly important for retailers to adopt both on the High Street and online.

These practices always focused on genuine customer service, a true willingness to want to help customers and continual customer engagement. In many ways your local shopkeeper was your friend.

I know this from experience, as when I was growing-up my grandmother had a corner shop which every Saturday you could guarantee people would be queuing up outside to get in. She ran a very good business, and her recipe for success was simple; customers could simply drop off their shopping lists and she’d have their orders delivered. This made good sense as her customers could use this small corner shop without ever needing to go the supermarket.

Now what really made my grandmother an exceptional shopkeeper is the fact that she never once delivered an incomplete order. Instead, I’d often accompany her to the competitors’ shops where she’d buy all the missing items she didn’t have in stock for the orders and I’d be in the backroom taking the price labels off! (I think it best we just glance past any ethical issues here and just call this entrepreneurial spirit on her part!)

The reason for doing this was simple, my grandma knew if she didn’t go and buy the items her customers would have to make the journey themselves and she’d risk losing their customer altogether. So whilst she’d make no profit on these items, she knew she was keeping her customer happy, which in turn kept them shopping in her shop.

Of course the shop was also the font of all local gossip which only served to help make it more popular and more successful.

This type of shopkeeping is exactly what customers want and successful retailers large and small are capable of delivering it, provided they choose to take a customer centric approach to their retail business.

Rightly so, John Lewis ( immediately springs to mind, and with partners who are knowledgeable, approachable and helpful the business deserves to be successful.

However it’s also possible to be a good online shopkeeper and I’d certainly suggest that Pedlars ( is a perfect example of this. They have a great product offering, which is further enhanced by the ways they proactively engage with their customers and potential customers both on their website and through social media. This helps people to connect with Pedlars and feel a part of their unique proposition.

Likewise in my hometown of Penarth, the Hampton’s store( exceptionally well engaged with its customers. This is shown by the extra services they offer including a dedicated Doggie Diner – for customers’ dogs to enjoy a Doggiechino, evening events, a strong social media presence and most importantly proprietors visible on the shop floor interacting with customers.

Whilst retail will continue to be challenging in 2013, be it online or in-store retailers that pay attention to detail and most importantly their customers will be likely to be best placed to have a successful year. If that means thinking like my grandma the shopkeeper – go for it!


Will the bar be raised?

6 11 2012

The wraps are coming off retailer’s Christmas 2012 campaigns, which reminded me of the amazing ad run by John Lewis last year.
This execution significantly raised the bar and has had over 4.3million views on YouTube to date.
Creating an ad that will make people talk about it, ideally for the right reasons, is a big challenge.
However with the potential for it to be shared quickly and easily, at the concept stage, a simple question is worth asking – “will people talk about this, will they want to share it?”
If the answer is a confident yes, and ideally confirmed by pre-testing, then the ad could have a chance of gaining the level of viewing figures enjoyed by the John Lewis advert.
Here’s the ad in question, enjoy and lets see how it compares to the 2012 Christmas campaigns.

Sofa so Good

16 10 2012

We’ve seen an interesting series of ads from DFS this year. These offer a new more engaging view of their products and provide a refreshing change to the “Sale Now On” messages they’ve used extensively in the past.
If my research is right, much of this has been achieved by Krow Communications and an example of one the ads is shown below.
The “Making everyday more comfortable” strap line supports the execution well.
In terms of customer engagement I also like the way they promote the fact that everything is handmade to order. That being the case a video showing the sofa story from customer order through manufacture and onto delivery could work well for DFS.
Made to order reminded me of my Grandma’s chair. She wasn’t a very tall women and had one of the chairs in her three piece suite (those were the days) made with a shorter seat. This meant she could sit comfortably in the chair.
Considering the ageing demographic in the UK wouldn’t it be great if DFS could offer a similar type of bespoke personalisation!
Unusually, I didn’t see any links to social media on their website. This strikes me as a missed opportunity as there are plenty of ways you could generate a strong following for all things sofa.
On checking their website you’ll also find out this British business has been around for over 40 years, and I like to think there is great potential for DFS to use their heritage to further support their marketing.
It’s fully understandable that DFS can’t totally abandon the value mmessages they use – it’s a tough market out there. However at the same time it’s encouraging to see them broadening their appeal with new ’emotional’ messages.
Will be good to see what they have planned for 2013.

Squirrel Power

29 09 2012

I have a small obsession with squirrels – especially as there are two who use my lawn as their food store!
So this ceramic squirrel speaker from U.S. retailer www.west certainly caught my eye.


Isn’t it amazing and in the current economic climate retailers that can offer such irresistible products should be well positioned to keep attracting customers.

John Lewis 2012 Ad

24 09 2012

The Never Knowingly Undersold ad beautifully crafted by adam&eveDDB. Fully encapsulates the brand and effortlessly entices viewers to trust John Lewis. What a great production.

Is the price right?

25 01 2011

With the VAT increase, increased fuel costs and even the cost of wheat going up, consumers are no doubt noticing their weekly supermarket bills are going up. Which of course creates a bit of a problem when it comes to the marketing tactics of the supermarkets, of course there are the deals and offers all aiming to grab attention and win sales.

However, I’m noticing some pricing “adjustments” that – whilst technically fine, still seem to fly against the messages of trying to help customers save money. Read the rest of this entry »

Pass it on

25 11 2008

Next Monday VAT drops to 15% and already the media are speculating that not all retailers will be passing on the 2.5% reduction to customers. Read the rest of this entry »