‘Smart home? We’ve been doing it for 15 years’
Inverurie is home to ERT Award-winner, Booth Scotland. Chris Frankland went to meet director Trevor Booth (left) and general manager Allan Will (right) to find out how they have reinvented their business
The Booth Scotland store in Inverurie really stands out with its striking exterior and imposing central ‘tower’. But the beauty is more than skin-deep as this Aberdeenshire independent was also winner of ERT’s Domestic Appliance Retailer of the Year Award for 2017.
Independent electrical retailers are thin on the ground in this neck of the woods and indeed nearby Aberdeen now has none at all, but in Inverurie, as well as Booth there is another Euronics agent, not to mention Currys.
Trevor Booth’s parents Allan and Janette started the business in 1988, when it was called Booth for Better Service. He has always been part of the business, but took over in 2015.
Inverurie may be a small town, but Booth is a cutting-edge, modern retailer that has capitalised on the growing market for custom install for the past 15 years and grown it to the extent that it now accounts for half of its turnover.
Booth is also modern in the sense that it has embraced new media and recently called in the services of a digital marketing consultancy to streamline its online and social media presence and make sure that it continues to be relevant to the modern consumer.
But what is ‘old-fashioned’ is its commitment to providing the best service it can to its customers.
Q: What did winning the ERT Domestic Appliance Retailer of the Year mean for Booth?
Trevor Booth: It was a huge honour. To be shortlisted among dealers of that standard was phenomenal. It was a great reward for all the staff. It gave us something to shout about and we had a great response to our Facebook posts when we were at the event. It allowed us to market that since the event and gives us a stamp of approval from our industry that we can pass on to our customers. We are more conscious about marketing now than ever, and we have done a lot of work on that in the past 12 months.
Q: You have been working with a digital marketing agency…
TB: We needed guidance on digital marketing. We had a website that was quite inactive and quite old and we were advertising in newspapers and on radio, but we couldn’t tell what we were getting from that. So we took on board a local digital marketing agency Azzurro-Blu. They found that over 60 per cent of visitors to our website clicked back out within five to 10 seconds. That data was really useful and we had a big debate as to whether we wanted to spend the money on a new website and digital marketing package. Which we decided to do.
The new website is slick and modern. It’s no good going on about how long we’ve been around – we did this in 1972, and that in 1974. Customers want to know ‘do you do it?’, ‘how well do you do it?’ and ‘what do your testimonials from customers say?’
Azzurro-Blu spent a lot of time with us to help them understand our business. They run our Facebook page and have got our followers up from 250 to around 2,500. Every week Allan gives them information on products, competitions, things that staff have done, and they post a mixture of all that. They know what time and day to post things to get the maximum coverage. We’re spending less now than we were when we were just doing newspaper and radio advertising.
Q: And what about SEO?
TB: You can have the most amazing website, but it’s no good if don’t have somebody getting you up the SEOs on Google on to page one – people don’t bother going to page two. Now we are up in the top results. We aim to be number two or three after John Lewis and Currys, because they’re a beast to try and beat.
Q: Has it benefited the business?
Allan Will: We both feel that more customers are saying to us that we do a lot of advertising. You’d never have heard that before. Leads we are getting from the website have gone through the roof. In the past nine months, we’ve seen an upturn in sales.
TB: I would urge anyone to have a critical look at their website. If you have a poor website, a customer will click in, click out and won’t even visit your showroom.
Q: Do you do any in-store or other events?
AW: The town just had a wedding weekend we participated in and there is the Taste of Grampian food exhibition at the local showground. We’ll be taking some range cookers there. You can get upwards of 16,000 people at that. We are doing two other exhibitions, one this month and one in September, which is a homes and self-build show. We’ll take big displays along to those. You’ve got to keep putting yourself out there.
TB: You have to keep reinventing yourself. The days of standing behind the counter waiting to sell a telly have gone. Be brave enough to reinvent your marketing, your strategy and your professionalism. It’s no good saying it was not like this in my day – that’s all gone.
Q: As part of ERT’s Turning Point campaign, we are always saying that retailers need to find new areas to get into, such as the smart home. You are very active in that area…
TB: We’ve been doing it for at least 15 years – multi-room systems, AV installs, satellite. You name it, we do it. It started with TV brackets. We did one survey a week to wall-mount a telly and then it went to three, and now on average at least 15 a week. Flat-screen opened up so many markets and then we started doing music systems with speakers hidden in the ceiling and distributing everything from a centre point.
We have eight people on the installation side. We have an electrical company, too. When we started a lot of people didn’t do it. I remember one Scottish dealer saying to me when flat screens came out this this would be the death of us all, because they can pick it up and carry it away, so why shouldn’t they just buy it in a supermarket? We saw it as an opportunity.
We did multi-room with Systemline and Savant, which does all of the audio and mood lighting, blinds, opens the gates at the end of your drive and controls CCTV with the same app. So we have branched into CCTV very successfully – that’s another good market. We don’t go so far as Crestron and Control 4 – that level of programming isn’t required. Savant is a really good system that is easy to program and everything works with it.
Q: What products do you do on the smart home side?
TB: Lighting, heating, blinds, CCTV. Mood lighting. We do sunken lighting. We use Lutron control systems and we will be moving more into blinds and shading systems. You can set the blinds to lower according to where the sun is.
AW: Redwell heating panels have also been good for us. Now you can control these from your iPhone. It is just more things we can add to complement the business.
Q: Do you do a lot of multi-room audio?
TB: Sonos was a game-changer. It’s a lot more about wireless now. There are fewer ceiling speakers and fewer opportunities for that. You either have to embrace that side of the market or you’ll fall behind.
Q: Is CI now a large part of your business?
AW: It must be half of our business now. But the two are so entwined that they would struggle to exist one without the other.
Q: You also have an electrical contracting arm…
TB: Yes. We took over another business 26 years ago and we call that side Booth Electrical Services. They provide electricians.
AW: The two business are becoming more entwined and they’re getting more involved on the lighting, CCTV and the heating side. They are also useful to provide all the skills we need to complete a housing project.
Q: Do you a lot of contract installation work, such as hotels?
TB: We have done two Hilton hotels. We do a lot of student accommodation and work alongside a big electrical contracting company. We do their aerial and satellite side. This includes white goods, too. We are also working with a new Inverurie Hub health centre and we’re doing all their sound systems, public address, etc. We are also doing a lot of churches, putting in projectors. We do quite well from the oil industry, too – meeting rooms, videoconferencing and digital signage.
Q: Do you work with house builders?
TW: Yes, we work with a number of developers and work off-plan and with architects. They send their clients in for us to discuss exactly what they want and where they want to hide everything. I design exactly what they want, where they want HD, where they want 4K. These systems can range up to £100,000.
Q: White goods. How has that been going?
AW: Sales have been increasing. It’s a pretty consistent sector, but built-in is continuing to grow. In general, we do well because of what we offer in terms of delivery, installation and recycling – especially with leasing companies as we take all of the hassle out of it for them, so that is a huge part of our business. And with built-in, we can always fit it for the customer no problem. We have a lot of big properties around here and they like these US-style appliances. That’s been good, solid business for us over the past few years.
We also do well with range cookers.
Q: So what’s next for Booth?
AW: The smart side is continually evolving with a lot more CCTV and wi-fi distribution. We have to keep up with brown goods – we have a good name for big, high-value TVs you’d not buy online. We are a bit weak in some cooling areas and we could work on that a bit better.
We need to market ourselves well and create the right experience. People come out all dressed up for a day out on a Saturday, so you have to make it an experience for them. They must be treated like kings.
We can look at expanding, but we should look within ourselves to make the experience – the retail theatre – better.