Local advantage?

I was passing a branch of Waitrose in London last week and as I glanced through the front door I saw this excellent floral display. How inviting it looked. How many independent retailers can match that? (Vim Odedra is one, having been at his Canvey Island Nisa Local.)

But at least, you may say, people will know this is a multiple retailer and they may like a local shop. Not if you proceed to read the marketing on the shop’s windows, which I reproduce in full:

“The first Waitrose branch in Gloucester road was opened in 1912. It was part of a small chain of specialist food shops founded eight years earlier by grocers David Taylor, Wallace Waite and Arthur Rose.

“After Mr Taylor left the firm in 1906, the remaining two partners combined their surnames to produce the name Waitrose.

Think about the story of your business and tell it in a similar way. Or the multiples might just do it instead.

“The original branch traded for 76 years and was thought of locally as Kensington’s village shop. It ran a popular home delivery service and many customers called in every day.

“Back in 1933 staff were entitled to three meals a day: cocoa with bread and dripping, a hot lunch, and tea with bread and jam. The head office was upstairs and a member of the typing pool could expect to earn 15 shillings a week.

“The Waitrose chain was bought by the John Lewis Partnership in 1937, by which time there were 10 branches with a turnover of £150,000. There are now over 190 branches across the country.

“The branch ran as a traditional grocers until 1959, when the first self-service section was opened. Customers using the new checkouts could still charge their purchases to their accounts and have them delivered.

“In 1986, the owners of the freehold announced that the site was to be redeveloped and on 14 January 1989 the first Gloucester Road branch closed its doors for the final time. It was the last of the original Waitrose branches still left in the John Lewis Partnership.

“Gloucester Road was without a branch of Waitrose for 10 years until this branch opened in April 1999 just a few hundred yards from the original one. Because the branch is built above the Underground tracks dividing walls had to be lighter than usual and no gas supply was allowed: it was the first branch to run entirely on electricity.”

This is a brilliant case study in telling a compelling story about your shop. It ticks all the boxes. They are nice to their staff. They respect their customers. They are innovative.

Read again what happened in 1959. Or how from 1906 local people thought of the shop. It is not even the shop we see today but the connection is made and told well. With just the right balance of detail.

For independent retailers who think that they can own their local area, this marketing copy should be a warning. Think about the story of your business and tell it in a similar way. Or the multiples might just do it instead.