Members of SMG since March 2015, Tony and Eddie have worked extremely hard to create a shopping experience that has their customers coming back time and again. Quirky, fun, stylish, engaging, welcoming – all words I would use to describe this wonderful store with an attention to detail and panache that captivates.
We put our usual questions to Tony and Eddie and here’s what they said:
WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS THE INDEPENDENT RETAILER’S STRENGTH?
“The desire and ability to offer a good quality service, that hopefully sets you apart from ’The Big Boys’ and gets customers talking about your business and the good experience they have had shopping with you. A supplier recently let us down (they will remain nameless) and didn’t deliver a cut length even though they assured us it would arrive the day before it’s installation date – only for us to be told it would not arrive until the day after the scheduled date after we ‘chased’ it – this customer was expecting their carpet to be installed, so that their new furniture could be delivered the following morning… so I got up at 4:30am and drove our van the 258 mile round trip to collect the carpet from the distribution company in Blackburn, Lancashire – needless to say the customer had their carpet installed – ON TIME! You wouldn’t get that from a department store or a carpet chain…our customers feel as though we really do care about them – because we do! Without them we do not have a business, so our livelihood really does count on it!!”
WHAT IS THE KEY MARKET CHALLENGE TODAY?
“The biggest challenge to the high street we feel is the internet and internet shoppers who have no loyalty to their local stores. They will happily call into your fully stocked, heated showroom, talk to you for hours about what they should buy, and then just go home and ‘google it’ to find the cheapest price, and not bat an eyelid about your time or effort… or service. It’s very frustrating to say the least. Some customers (but not many) may give you the opportunity to ‘match the price’ they’ve seen online – but most you just never see again! Some brands are worse than others, particularly a few bed manufacturers – again, they’ll remain nameless… but they know who they are!”
SMG HAS A STRONG POLICY OF SUPPORTING BRITISH MANUFACTURERS, IS THIS SOMETHING YOU SUPPORT?
“We have always been proud to promote British Suppliers wherever possible, Amtico for example, and we promote British Manufactured carpets over those from Europe. British wool features highly in our store, although most consumers want ‘easy-clean’ polypropylene for their growing families – but we avoid the soft yarns which generally lose their appearance after a matter of months. We want our customers to be presented with the best products we can offer and their ultimate satisfaction is our aim. We get repeat customers because we steer them to the right products; the products we would buy ourselves – they trust our advice and our honest opinion.”
WHAT ARE THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS YOU HAVE FROM CUSTOMERS?
“How long have you been established… and are you ‘part of a chain’ as it looks like you’re part of a chain store group! (meaning our investment and style we think?)”
IF YOU COULD ASK SUPPLIERS TO CHANGE ONE THING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
“Support their ‘Bricks & Mortar’ stores customers more and only deal with ‘legitimate’ businesses. This will hopefully resurrect the British high street retail stores – there are so many doom and gloom stories in the news just lately about high street retailers failing and going into administration.”
WHAT IS YOUR TOP SELLING PRODUCT AT THE MOMENT?
“Our best selling carpet range is Victoria Carpets’ ‘First Impressions’. We’ve had it installed in our ground floor showroom area and customers are amazed it’s been down over three and a half years and it still looks good – that’s why it sells! We recently installed it in the new mezzanine first floor carpet showroom area too! Our best selling mattress is the Serenity 1400 Hybrid from Sealy, but we really love the new Gainsborough handmade models – fabulous looking beds! We sell lots of Interiors type products and our business is evolving into a more interiors-lead ‘designer’ store – so we are adding value to our customers’ store visits – people often pop in ‘just to look’ but often go away with a cushion, a throw, a quirky ornament – or even an occasional chair! Our stocks and display are constantly changing and this makes our customers keep coming back – the store never looks the same twice, and they say how much they like this, it offers variety and it’s always interesting for them. I think if you keep the same old stocks, people pop in a few times, get bored and stop calling in to see you… We offer every customer a tea or coffee and let them wander around at their leisure – we are a strictly ’no-pressure’ store – people buy from us because they want to, not because it’s an ‘amazing offer, which must end today, as it’s 70% off – but it’s today only!’ Customers are treated as intelligent people – if it’s too good to be true, it usually is!”
WHAT WAS THE MAIN REASON FOR JOINING SMG?
“As a new business, we initially wanted access to all the ‘big name’ manufacturers. We wanted the support to get established and after doing a bit of research, we thought SMG was the ‘best fit’ for our business style. Even though we had many years in the industry it was comforting to have the backing to help you stand on your own two feet!”
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO NON-ALIGNED RETAILERS?
“It’s good having a support network if you need it, and the comfort of people being on hand and offering advice can be invaluable. There’s freedom to run your business as you wish, but help is available if it’s needed.”
WHAT HAS CHANGED MOST DURING YOUR TIME IN THE INDUSTRY?
“I would have to say it’s technology. It’s made business a bit easier, but it’s a double-edged sword as we discussed earlier with the ‘internet shopper’. So you have to be clever with it, and the way forward for the independent we feel, is definitely own-branding/labelling. We own-label quite a few products and ranges, but being a small team there’s never really enough hours in the seven days a week we work, so the job’s not quite finished yet!”