Hi Fran, hope you’re having a great summer! We were excited to see you on BBC Business Live recently – can you let us know a little about what you were there to talk about?
“Hi Jacqui! Yes – Summer is like my Christmas holiday as my husband who is a professional footballer only gets time off during this period so its been lovely to have a little downtime with the family. I was on BBC breakfast a few months ago and the presenter asked if I’d like to do Business Live and I was like, ‘totally’! He was interested in the fact that we are making the high street work again, and the way in which we do things. It was a great way to share my story and get across how much I do believe in the future of retail in this country if its done right… I’m quite opinionated about retail in general so it was great to share my views.”
How important do you think the UK high street is? How can we ensure they remain important to their local communities in the future?
“High streets are so important to both local communities and the local economy. I think too much is done online these days, and many customers still value face to face contact. In the children’s market especially its so important to have that product knowledge and connect with your customer – so its better done in person. I always say retail is a people’s person business and its important to remember that some shoppers crave the social side to the high street and what it can bring. I think some people are quite ignorant about how important the high street is. Empty shops can deter people away from the area, they fall into disrepair and can attract all kinds of wrong! It has a direct affect on jobs, house prices and quality of life. We need to stop being so short-sighted about the immediate financial gain high streets can bring from parking charges, rents and rates and move towards creating a medium long term plan for their survival.”
What is your perception of traditional retail values and how they can work in/the benefits they bring to a modern business?
“Traditional retail bases itself upon caring for the customer, knowing them inside out and understanding their wants and needs. I always tell my staff that when you ask a customer a question really listen to the answer instead of assuming. I think as a society in general we don’t listen properly to people when they are talking. People respect the fact that we respect them and don’t just assume they will spend their money with us. We need to return to these basic principles and work on real relationships rather than the glossy image most retailers try and portray… when often there isn’t much substance to that!”
What is your personal experience of the difficulties faced on the high street at the moment? How is Doncaster doing and has this affected your business?
“I think there’s this portrayal in the media that the entire high streets are dying and while yes they are struggling, there are pockets in the UK which are utterly thriving. We’ve proven that you don’t need to be in a fancy shopping centre to do well. The units next to us are empty as is the unit opposite – that doesn’t stop people coming to us. The narrative that’s played out in the media does impact the public’s mindset I believe, so I think we need to work towards portraying the more positive side of retail.”
How do you believe retailers can make bricks and mortar stores attractive again?
“It’s going to take a lot of groundwork. We need real ambassadors for bricks and mortar who can practise what they preach but also educate and support others. Retailers need to invest more into retail theatre to create unified experiences for their customers and project that they are confident in bricks and mortar. Retailers may not be able to control the conditions outside of their stores but they can control what goes on within them and control that experience they give the customer whose made that choice to enter a store. We need to move away from complacent retailing and move towards fighting for our future and bringing customers back.”
The Pud Store famously does not have an online presence, other than your very engaging social media activity. Is this a conscious decision and how do you believe your business benefits from that?
“Ah! This has really become a talking point lately. I just believe in doing things differently…not to mention suppliers love the fact they can give me great deals and in stays offline! My business by staying off a traditional website benefits from incredible supplier deals which we then pass on to the customer. Through our use of social media we encourage social shopping and customers Love our treasure hunt mentality in knowing they will always get the best deal by coming into store. They also know we will always be pleased to see them. This keeps footfall strong and adds an air of mystery to what we do. Primark are huge and don’t have a website… I take a lot from that, knowing that I can have a big business by doing it differently.”
In the news segment, you jokingly described your business as ‘QVC for kids’ – would you ever consider taking it that far? Any other plans for the future?
Absolutely. Its something we are working towards however the plans I’ve got for it require a heavy investment which we are working towards… So watch this space, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of us!”
Thanks for your time Fran – have a great week!