Last week I was in Warwickshire with my wife and daughter, mainly around Leamington Spa and Warwick. During the week we visited many independent shops and cafes and I was struck by the strong set of Unique Selling Points (USP) that we encountered. It is fair to say that both Leamington Spa and Warwick have very buoyant shopping centres, Leamington leading with its multiple store offer and Warwick having a large number of independent business throughout the town centre.
My daughter has just moved back from the Netherlands and living out of a suit case. She was looking for a dress shop and she found Kokua in Warwick, here is what she says about their USP. “I liked the clothes. They were different (not many other people would have them), they are good quality, the attendant was very helpful and it’s better to buy local than M&S for example.”
Next she took us to a fabric shop, The Quilters Den and again it was the range and knowledge & helpfulness of the sales person that stood out.
After that we went across Smith Street for tea and cake at Bread & Co. My daughter says “This is a choice cafe with an excellent selection of well made cakes. Drinks made with care and thought. Extremely nice owner with a clear passion to run his business well.”
Elsewhere in Warwick AE Contemporary Art in Swan Street stood out. Owner Alan Elkin has been an art dealer for 25 years, but it is what he his doing with greeting cards that will take me back to his store. He has a great range of cards, all displayed with a full facing and he offers a privilege card that gives regular customers a free card for every 10 they buy. Brilliant!
Our best experience in Leamington Spa was at Vinteas in Park Street. They offer a wide range of teas, served in bone china tea pots and cups. The wall paper is fantastic.
Comparing these marvellous independent businesses with the multiples one wonders why independents are not the dominant retail force in this country. Here are a couple of push offs, at a big department store, part of a national chain my daughter and I waited near the entrance among the cosmetic counters for more than 5 minutes and not one sales assistant approached us. Amazing. At a branch of one of the big electronic goods retailers I asked an assistant to tell me about a specific TV and the opening feature in his sales patter was that it is silver. Appalling!
My experience in Warwickshire reinforced the value of independent business having a strong USP. What do you do to make your business stand out?
PS I have been delighted to find that all the independent businesses mentioned here do have an online presence . Bread & Co is active on twitter; @lovebreadandco