pubnewsagentWe hear from the pub trade that pubs are dying regularly. Research by the NFRN last year tells us that independent newsagents are going the same way, with more than one closing every day.

Rather than looking at the reasons why – and there are many, from the sociological to the financial – I’m interested in how and why the successful ones stay open. Nick recently blogged about independent retailers becoming part of a trade organisation to make their voice and it’s true that it’s far easier to fight battles with powerful people in front of you if you have thousands of likeminded members behind. But individually, retailers also must ensure they are doing the best they can on their shop floors.

I was in a busy pub this weekend. I started looking around, wondering why this one in particular hadn’t closed and what made it successful. Despite the relatively high prices, I noticed that the group of people in front of me were all drinking bottles of Corona, at £3.90 a pop – certainly not the cheapest or best value for money option in the bar.

But the landlord was offering the right beer for his customers. He knew that he could sell a relatively expensive foreign lager because his patrons would buy it.

I also noted that everyone, myself included, was made to feel welcome and at home. Simple things like offering a glass with ice, commenting on the weather, apologising for not selling one particular bitter but advising on a likely alternative all made us feel comfortable in the surroundings. The pub itself was well decorated and upholstered, the toilets were clean, the music wasn’t too loud… the list goes on.

The number of things for landlords to concentrate on is huge – and it is the same for retailers. It’s not just about the right range, it’s about making the customers feel welcome and offering them a service that makes them want to come back again and again.
Customers will pay a premium for these sorts of things, because you can’t put a value on those little extras that make life bearable.

An old boss of mine used to say to me, repeatedly, as he walked around with a duster in hand or putting discarded litter in his pocket, that “retail is detail”. Never a truer word has been spoken. The little things really do add up to a greater whole.