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 big city stores! How do they manage this?

Well, they stock one of the largest selections of fragrances outside of London, they have the most eclectic mix going back many years, and also sell skincare and makeup. They actually take more in one month on Guerlain than certain Oxford Street stores. 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.

So, how can we replicate this in large cities? We need to seek out the independent stores. You can start with 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. So, let's change the way we shop and start including the boutiques in the shopping ritual.

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