Only fools and electrical retailers?

With manufacturers selling direct to our customers and the internet eroding our in-store prices, Dacombes of Wimborne director Matt Renaut asks, is there a future for the independent electrical retailer?

Sometime ago, a representative from one of the well-known manufacturers visited my store and was commenting on the state of the industry.

When I asked him why his company was selling direct to my customers, he awkwardly shifted his weight and with a shrug of the shoulders answered: “That’s the future of retailing, Matt.”

Really? Is that the view of most manufacturers? I certainly hope not!

I pride myself on the relationship I have with many of my key suppliers, but if I thought my supplier was actively trying to engage my customers and remove me from the retail chain then thanks, but no thanks!

So is the independent electrical retailer still relevant today?

We recently had an in-store visit from the Samsung training team. Nothing unusual there. However, along with the usual efficient staff training, we were all treated to a valuable insight into customer profiles.

Our customers were broken down into three age groups: Generation X, Millennials and Baby Boomers. The Generation Xs are aged between 35 and 55, the Millennials 18 to 35 and the Baby Boomers 55 to 70. The Boomers make up the largest part of our society, followed by the Millennials.

I suspect most of our customers are of the baby-boomer generation and, more interestingly, possess 75 per cent of the wealth in the UK. Yes, three-quarters of the money in your area.

They have more time on their hands and are looking for new experiences, resulting in an increase in bookings of adventure and experience holidays abroad. The baby boomer is a Facebook user and isn’t scared of the internet (anymore).

He or she has traditional values and would rather shop in their local store, but would also shop online if the deal was there. The boomers are not pressured by time constraints and are looking for a fun, personal and honest shopping experience.

The question we all have to ask ourselves is – does my store appeal to this type of customer? Does it appeal to any of those other groups? If you were a customer, would YOU buy from your store?

The consumer journey with all groups usually starts off the same way – a Google search of the product they are looking for. In most cases, the higher the price, the longer the time between researching and buying.

Most of the customers I talk to in-store have visited my website and are aware of what we stock and what prices the ‘sheds’ are charging it for. Have you ever had a customer check your price on their smartphone against a competitor midway through a conversation?

The common assumption is that the smaller local store can’t compete with the big out-of-town stores, but why not encourage your potential customer to compare prices?

If you stock Euronics agency products like us, have a QR code stuck on the machine, so an easy swipe will take them to a Google shopping page to allay their fears.

Dacombes of Wimborne
Dacombes of Wimborne

Ensure your website showcases all your products and maybe a Google walk-through section, so potential customers can see the interior of your store to decide if you are worth a visit.

Even before setting foot in-store, the customer has a good knowledge of what they are looking for. Once they are stood in front of the product, then it’s all down to the salesperson.

A little while ago, I invited George Morton from Top Level Solutions to spend a few days in both of my Wimborne stores to help train staff and advise on improving my business.

One of the many useful nuggets of information my staff and I took away from his visit was that ‘people buy from people’. OK – it’s a bit of a cliché, but if we engage our customers in a pleasant, friendly environment, we are halfway to getting that sale.

As for getting it right and making a profit? Support the manufacturers that support us and make sure that the customer experience in-store is a good one.

Providing we still appeal to our customer and provide everything that the independent retailer is known for, at a sensible price, then, in the words of that master salesman: “This time next year, Rodney, we’ll be millionaires!”