Friday, 31 July 2015

The Plight Of The Independent

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there was a town called "Londinium". Now, in this mystical place there were shops selling everything that a person could want. The shopkeepers knew their customers' names, their tastes, on which day the week they shopped, and never competed with each other in a mercenary way. "Competition is the way to failure. You may succeed in a sale but at the price of a friend."

In 2015 this description of London is indeed a fairytale, but it doesn't need to be. At least, not totally. Come with me as I take you on a journey to see whether there are lessons to be learnt from the Plum capital of the United Kingdom.

Nestled amongst the beautiful countryside of Worcestershire (or Wore-Chester-Shire if you're American) is the market town of Pershore. Now, in this town is the infamous chemist "Ogles". I say infamous because they manage to take more on certain brands than their respective counters in some London stores! How do they manage this? Well, surprisingly it isn't rocket science.

They stock one of the largest selections of fragrances outside of London, they seriously have the most eclectic mix going back many years, and also sell skincare and makeup. They actually have the full range of Guerlain, and take more in one month on that brand than certain Oxford Street stores. They used to also stock Dior but the company decided to remove it ... WHY?! Who knows.

Their secret is that they have a personal relationship with their customers. They sell them items that they know they will like, not because they are "targeted" on certain products. They have also recruited a staff comprised of ex-Guerlain and ex-Clarins ladies. The "post-child" worker is a valuable asset and, as an employer, ignored at your peril. They were trained by the companies remember and can switch their knowledge instantly between brands.

So, how can we replicate this in large cities? Seek out the independent store. Nicola at Penhaligons Mayfair, Hazel at Avery Perfumery, James Craven at Les Senteurs and everyone at Cologne and Cotton. They all have stand-alone shops and boutiques where you can create a personal relationship with your consultant, and usually you will have more time one to one. Yes, the brands are available in the department stores, but remember, if you stop using the little guys then they will close down. I have spent my career in large department stores and long for the day when I can have an emporium of my own, with my own front door key! However, without your support this will always be a dream. Let's change the way we shop and start including the boutiques in the shopping ritual.

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