In an ever challenging retail environment, how to stove shops remain relevant in a digital age? HETAS spoke to Graham Jackson of GJ Consultancy to find out more.
A short Introduction.
Graham Jackson is a career retailer having worked at Board level for over 20 years in organisations such as Ikea, Heals and Bell Northampton. He currently acts as a Small Business Consultant in the Retail Industry with close allegiance to the Home and Furnishings markets, working with Retailers and Suppliers to help grow their business.
In a world dominated by digital technology and an ever-increasing percentage of the population savvier than they have ever been, how do we ensure that Bricks and Mortar Fires and Stove shops remain relevant to customers.
The starting point is to ensure that your store is visible to customers…Your Website is critical, up to date, modern with high quality images it must shout louder than your competitors. Ignoring this is the biggest single mistake most smaller retailers make. It is here that Trust is created, be that through customer reviews on platforms such as Trustpilot or just as importantly the affiliation your business has with national bodies such as HETAS. Indeed, being an approved HETAS Retailer tells customers that you are experts and gives you a competitive edge.
Your Social Media activity is crucial in telling potential customers where you are, what you do and how excellent you are at doing it. This needs to be frequent and have content that has empathy with what you do. Engaging with customers via Social Media is a real skill and if you are not that confident at creating the content yourself, find someone who is!
The most important differentiation however remains what your store looks like and how well you serve the customers that do visit.
We sell Stoves and Fires! A hugely emotional purchase…flickering flames, crackling logs and a sensuous warmth that simply cannot be achieved in any other way. This is something that Online Retailers can never replicate no matter how talented their developers are.
Your website is your window….Your store needs to reflect the vision it creates, well maintained, clean, up to date, inspirational and always with working fires and stoves ….To many stores are tired, poorly merchandised and even dirty and untidy. Take a fresh look at your store…
In the end though the biggest memory that your customer will have is the interaction they have with you and your team.
Customer Service is a cliché, what does it actually mean …Online retailers, display products outstandingly well, have all the relevant information and offer fast efficient delivery. Often at very competitive prices, it can be a very compelling proposition and is very well aligned with how consumers are increasingly happy to shop after all virtually everyone has a smart phone or tablet nowadays.
Customers come to shops for many reasons…To touch and feel a product, to see a product working, to get affirmation that what they want to do is possible, to ask questions …often lots of questions, to get advice often about costs and installation. Buying a stove is a complex decision and frequently they are looking for affirmation of what they want. They want to ask questions but are often daunted by the complexity of it all.
I spent 6 years at Bell Northampton with a stove department occupying the front of our large lifestyle store , we were a Hetas Approved Store and I must admit that initially I was sceptical of the benefits of such a scheme…I was wrong, it is a well established organisation with a trusted brand.
The HETAS brand
The HETAS scheme increased our credibility and the team enjoyed the training courses which ensured they were able to offer both technical and practical advice. Of course, our Fitters were part of the competent persons scheme but far too often the sales teams are ignored by retailers despite the fact they are usually fielding most of the difficult questions. In what is a very dynamic market for solid fuel market at the moment it is essential that you and your team are able to offer the best possible service, up to date information and address any safety concerns. On top of this the team loved the training, it gave them more confidence and a feeling that we valued their role and development.
There were other benefits of being in the scheme, listing as an approved retailer on the HETAS Website, access to technical helplines, Insurance services and other advice. The service was advertised on the home page of website in a prominent location as well as window stickers and certificates.
Retailers need always to be looking for competitive advantage, collaborations with parent organisations is commonplace in other fitted industries such as Kitchens and Bathrooms , they increase the reach of your brand and ensure that customers know that you are serious about providing them with the right information and service.
In summary, to be relevant and fight back against the growing E Com only brands make sure that you copy what they do well and excel at what they are unable to do. Have a great Website which is a mirror image of your store…make sure both are modern, easy to shop and interesting to a potential customer. Tell people about your brand via Social Media, Blogs, Influencers and other collaborations.
Most importantly train your team and yourself, be friendly knowledgeable and helpful, don’t baffle them with massive detail of Part J of the building regs but communicate in a pragmatic and conversational style. Consider using Hetas Approved Retailer Scheme to improve the stores credibility and the team’s confidence.
Good Luck and happy Selling.
For more information on the services available at GJ Consultancy visit www.thegjconsultancy.com.
For more information on the HETAS Approved Retails scheme visit www.hetas.co.uk/professionals/retailers. Membership costs as little as 31p a day for existing registered businesses.