For this autumnal issue of SMG News, we headed over the beautiful Surrey hills to visit with Barry Brockman of Godalming Carpets & Flooring. A Member of SMG since April 2016, it was a pleasure to visit this well laid out, light and airy store.
Barry has been in the flooring business since he was 18, when he gained employment with a friend of his who was a carpet fitter. He learned the trade, went self employed and fitted for the next 15 years. After he developed some tendonitis in his arm, he was forced to stop fitting and moved on to be an estimator for Ladymead Carpets, who he had fitted for previously and where he stayed for another 3 years. He moved on to Bagshot Carpets in Sandhurst for a change of scene and stayed there for a further 14 years where he learned all about retail. The opportunity came up to take premises of his own in his home town of Godalming and on the 21st October 2014 he opened his doors and has not looked back.
The store is beautifully presented, with strong brands featuring throughout and a warm welcome waiting for customers coming in. With large windows the store is bright and cheery and with its position on the main road into Godalming and with its own car park it is ideally situated.
We put our usual questions to Barry and here’s what he said:
WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE INDEPENDENT RETAILER’S STRENGTH?
“Service! First, second and third. We have fitters I have known for years, we move furniture, we give honest advice and just give the customer the absolute best service we can.”
WHAT IS THE KEY MARKET CHALLENGE TODAY?
“We are finding the market is good in this area and providing your pricing is right and you give friendly and excellent service to your customers, the money looks after itself. We don’t try to compete with internet pricing but concentrate on giving fair pricing and all round good service. If you want internet price, you get internet service!”
SMG HAS A STRONG POLICY OF SUPPORTING BRITISH MANUFACTURERS, IS THIS SOMETHING YOU SUPPORT?
“Yes definitely – it is important to me and to our customers. It used to be a generational thing but now we are finding all age groups are keen to buy British!”
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS YOU HAVE FROM CUSTOMERS?
“We find that practicality is now a big factor in customer questions – how will this wear? How easy is it to look after? How easy is it to clean? There seem to be two groups of customer – those who just want luxury – soft, longer pile etc. and the other group who want a product that gives them ease of living – it’s like hair – if you have long hair, it takes far more looking after than a grade
1! So long as you are honest with the customer on how the product is likely to perform, you find that you have happy customers who come back again and again.”
IF YOU COULD ASK SUPPLIERS TO CHANGE ONE THING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“Well I think they will have to change with regard to health and safety legislation – they need 2 people on the van for deliveries. They can’t expect older people, pregnant women, people on their own to help unload carpet deliveries!”
WHAT IS YOUR TOP SELLING PRODUCT AT THE MOMENT?
“It has to be Furlong Flooring’s Elegance. We have it on the floor in the shop and it’s been down for 4 years and looks great. British made, bleach cleanable – it wears so well and to the untrained eye looks like a much more expensive wool product.”
WHAT WAS THE MAIN REASON FOR JOINING SMG?
“Well, I’d seen it work at Bagshot Carpets and when I set up originally I thought it might be really useful for getting unitary for the shop. Now I find that the rebate and preferential pricing mean that I’m earning far more than my membership costs and if I need a product I don’t have an account for, I can order via Orderlink – so why wouldn’t I do that?”
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO NON-ALIGNED RETAILERS?
“At least have a look at joining a group. Financially it makes sense – you can only gain. It’s a plus plus!”
WHAT HAS CHANGED MOST DURING YOUR TIME IN THE INDUSTRY?
“Margins are definitely tighter now than they used to be. Also the balance of fitters in relation to retailers has changed over the years. Good fitters wield a lot of power and you have to treat your fitters well to keep them.”