Visiting a WH Smith Local store for the first time was an interesting experience and a pleasant reminder of the nearly 20 years that I worked for WH Smith.
I met Dee Goberdhan and Mark Dudden at last year’s Local Shop Summit when they were finalising the arrangements to merge their two businesses into one site. The key USP of Mark’s store was being one of the foremost magazine specialists in South Wales and Dee’s business is very much led by the busy main Post Office.
When I was invited by the NFRN to their reception at the Welsh Assembly to launch the Independent Retailer Report for Wales, I arranged to spend the afternoon at the Albany Road store. During my time at the store I shared some insights with them and I was looking at what I could learn from the way they manage their store.
Here are the four key areas I noticed:
Newspapers and magazines can still be a winner
Both Dee and Mark are excited by the incredible growth that the category has delivered over the past few months. The weekly news wholesale bill has increased by over 30% in the past two months. Launching a home newspaper delivery operation is growing newspaper sales and stocking a very wide range of magazines has added to this success. Offering a unique range of titles and being a specialist magazine retailer with a unique range of titles on the Albany Road is attracting customers from a wide area of South Wales. One customer who recently shopped with his family spent over £50 just on magazines!
To operate a successful business all members of the store team need to keep updating their skills for the tasks that are required of them in an evolving environment. In addition to this, where you give employees responsibilities within the business, they still need to be managed. You need to regularly assess their performance and give additional training when and where needed. Delegation only works when people are controlled and held accountable for their actions and performance.
High margin front and centre
The first product range that I noticed when I entered the store was greeting cards. It is front of store and the rack was perfectly merchandised. Greeting cards has delivered Dee a high increase in sales over the past years and the category delivers a high gross profit margin. Gaining success in cards is about having the right range with choices across as many of the popular categories as your space will allow.
Regularly visit the competition
It doesn’t matter if your store is located on a busy high street or in a quiet village, there is always competition for your customers’ spend. Make sure you regularly visit the stores in your channel that are attracting your customers. As Mike Greene told me last year, these other stores - multiple or independent - may be competing for your customer money, but they also have all the same issues of customers, crime and red tape as you. Looking at how the other stores local to you are marketing and offering what you sell will help you to understand how you can improve your offer.