Putting Soul Into A High Street Business: a master class in customer engagement
Do They Know it’s Christmas?
5 Things You Must Ask About Your Customers
5 Starter Tips for small businesses on the high street..
Scotland Braves The Way For Us All… why we owe thanks..
‘On the Edge of Bureaucracy’, is where we find power
Beyond the Counter : Dugard & Daughters..
Sustainable High Streets need Structure and Belief.
Beyond the Counter ..
Detroit: A Lesson & Inspiration
To Empower we need structure…
Mary Portas, can all high streets be Super High Streets?

Putting Soul Into A High Street Business: a master class in customer engagement

Strong core values and a passion for people that have kept customers coming back for 29 years…

A&S cyclesA&S Cycles is a rare find on the high street today; a long established business showing not an ounce of retail fatigue, with an enticing shop front and once inside a welcome that you know you can trust. As soon as you enter the shop you immediately feel that you are in safe hands and that your experience is going to be a good one. You won’t be disappointed…It is up to date and interesting, with the niggling feeling that you may just have entered the Aladdin’s cave of the bicycle world. The first thing that will strike any customer on entering are the people (the excellent range is a given). On our first visit the owner was not there, this made no difference to the service and welcome we received. All staff members are part of something special here and customer service is effortlessly genuine and consistently good.

So, how does a long established business sustain this fresh energy and engage their customer base both old and new?
The answer lies with its core values…

When the business was set up 29 years ago by local resident Suleman ‘Solly’ Vesamia, aged just 19, his passion and motivation was three fold:

  • Cycling (of course!) and in the early years fishing
  • The local area
  • …but most importantly PEOPLE

A passion for people and the surrounding area still remain at the core of this business today and are values that are at the heart of the operation which is now run by Solly’s widow Shameem. Shameem and her team have guided their traditional business into a new, challenging era of social media and local regeneration both gently and extremely effectively, which is no easy task. Change is necessary but not always easy for people to accept. A&S Cycles have managed this with sensitivity and without alienating local residents or regular customers, at the same time attracting new custom. They seem to have managed this by their openness and tireless commitment to serving the local community, making a genuine difference where possible. People come fist with this business. High levels of technical expertise and knowledge help form the backbone of this business but what sustains them on their journey through today’s high street challenges is their instinctive ability to venture ‘beyond the counter…’ Their customer service is consistently good, regardless of who walks through their door and which member of staff they are talking to; this is a shop made accessible and welcoming to the whole community. They make their customers feel part of something by sharing their passions and engaging with the local community far beyond simply selling them a bike. Over the years they have never lost the ability to engage with their customer, an art that seems to have been forgotten on the high street in recent years; it’s no surprise to hear that they know the individual names of all their customers. They openly support and promote other local businesses using social media and word of mouth, understanding the importance of collective engagement on the high street.

So, after 29 years of running a small independent business, here is A&S Cycles’ 3 Top Tips For Continued Success on The High Street:
  • Engage and take time – listen don’t just sell
  • Bring customers into your business – take them on your journey with you and make them feel part of something
  • When a customer gives you their custom, thank them by giving them something memorable in return

Do They Know it’s Christmas?

Blog-Montypeng It’s that time of the year again when our inboxes and TV screens are full of enticing, sparkly messages about the approaching festive season and what apparent wonder and fun lies ahead for us all. These campaigns are sophisticated, well thought out and timed to perfection. They are ‘doing Christmas’ the way big brands do it best and with budgets that would bring a tear to the eye of many  a small independent business owner.

So, how should small independent businesses react to the onslaught of big brand Christmas cheer? Read More

5 Things You Must Ask About Your Customers

 For many high street shops and businesses the key to revival begins simply with effective customer service..


From the very first ‘hello’ through to long established relationships with your regulars, getting to know your customer and building upon that relationship is paramount to the long term success of your business. There are many different approaches to this from sophisticated analytics and brand positioning by marketing teams of the larger chains through to the hands on, face to face, contact enjoyed by smaller independent businesses. No matter what method is employed, the aim is the same - meaningful engagement and ongoing dialogue with your most important asset…your customer.

Never lose sight of the fact that you are there to provide a service to your customer and to inspire them to return; make sure that you are offering what they are looking for as well as a bit of something that they had never considered but might feel encouraged to try. This approach goes deeper than product range alone. This is about overall customer experience, so ensure that the experience you offer is memorable (for the right reasons!).

Your first challenge is to entice your customers into your shop and beware of underestimating the complexity of doing this successfully. The second challenge is to give them a good reason to return. Chances are if you are a small independent, your business is not particularly convenient for your customer so, what is going to make them take a chance on you and more importantly what will make them return and advocate your brand to their friends?

Here are 5 things you (and your staff) need to be asking yourselves about your customers to help meet the challenges you face. Read More

5 Starter Tips for small businesses on the high street..

Top 5 Do or die tips for small businessescrouchend-111

I have been asked a lot about  what I consider to be the absolute musts that small high st shops should do to avoid extinction.  Whilst ofcourse there are variables ,   the type of business, location, there are generic opportunities that are inherent in them all. Most of these seem obvious and perhaps overly simple, but that is exactly why they work and are worth remembering. Read More

Scotland Braves The Way For Us All… why we owe thanks..

Scottish_flag It has been invigorating to hear the Scottish voice roar into our homes and consciousness in the last few months, and even more so the passion and debate that was involved.

How must it have felt to be living in Scotland amongst such urgent debate?

What is clear is the flame-throwing emotion of the Scottish debate has cast the more     insipid offerings of political argument we have grown used to into deep shadow.

Sure in the 1980’s Maggie stirred up everything from pure hornet hatred through to stiff-upper- lipped pride; Kinnock could raise an eyebrow of interest with his rousing and passionate speeches, although mainly to the converted, and Blair created a sense of excitement with his vision for Great Britain when first elected.

But since then, it’s been little more than administrative banter and we are all bored. Worse still, with the oncoming election, there is a sense that it won’t even be worth turning up. But is that all about to change, and why is that so important? Read More

‘On the Edge of Bureaucracy’, is where we find power

CEP circle web high res

..Meanwhile, back in Crouch End we have been searching for a new project manager, our last having been headhunted by another local firm.

Helen has been running the day-to-day project for 4 years, working largely from home and fitting in around  children and family, so it is with great sadness that we see her go. She is a wonderful example of the resource that exists in the playground – parents and carers who have enormous skills and experience, are able to multi-task and a have a renewed connection with their community.  Read More

Beyond the Counter : Dugard & Daughters..

Dugard & Daughters A Masterclass in High Street Retail.

Planning,  infrastructure with clear vision and experience makes  an impressive business for a new venture on the high street ..

The last decade has seen enormous change in retail that has transformed opportunities and challenges almost overnight, placing enormous pressure on smaller high street shops and businesses.

For some this change has been overwhelming, leaving them stranded with a diminishing offer, but a growing number of retailers and high street businesses are embracing change and recognising opportunities do exist, through stronger customer engagement and service, and using the advantage their operational flexibility can achieve.

The Beyond the Counter  featured retailers, markets and high street collectives are excelling at this, attracting a loyal customer base, and fast becoming destination shopping .These businesses are successfully distinguishing their offer from the competition, on and offline, and are having impressive results.

There is a clear indication in BtC that ‘ value’ is not found in discounting alone, and convenience not necessarily king. These businesses demonstrate that there will always be a market for a someone able to interpret and meet the needs and aspirations of its customers, and in doing so can achieve the necessary mind-shift  in the customer to become a viable, thriving local business on the high street. Read More

Sustainable High Streets need Structure and Belief.

aldeburgh-high-street-6 An enormous amount of time and money has  been spent in supporting regeneration of our high streets since the Mary Portas Review in 2011.  And whilst there is still along way to go, there is now  focus on our high streets, with new energy,  and  a clear recognition of the important role our high streets have to play in community wellbeing.

As an essay is published by Mary Portas reflecting on her disappointment in the coalition government to act more effectively, I wanted to look at what has been achieved, what can be learnt  - and outline where I believe the  challenge still lies.

Since 2011, and the  multi million pound investment  there are emerging  success stories, giving a shy optimism not only about our high streets but, more importantly, about our power to change them, positively. Read More

Beyond the Counter ..

Highgate shop..Tips for small shops on engaging customers..

There is no doubt that to provide a relevant, positive experience is key in resurrecting the high street. Unable to compete on range, price and often convenience, the opportunity for the high street is to compete on a human level capitalizing on customers natural link to the high street.

This is so much stronger if this is the vision behind a collective business strategy, with high level high street branding to help raise profile and gain share of voice.

However there is a lot that can be achieved by businesses on their own, that don’t need to be expensive or sophisticated, but in the main, does require a transformative approach. Read More

Detroit: A Lesson & Inspiration

Part 1. Amongst the gloom springs light and hope.

When Detroit City filed for bankruptcy protection in 2013,  there was huge shock, and fear that this may just be the first; Questions were asked, how this could have happened, and what does it mean for America?

Detroit was once a great City, America’s 4th largest, and from its hey day in the 1950’s with 296,000 manufacturing jobs, growing middle class it carried with it the hopes of the American dream.

Many cite the 1967 Riots as the beginning of the end – but as many take the view that the disaster was the culture of state–dependency, city hand-outs, top down approach, and powerful trades unions, who collectively took the city apart over 6 long decades .

Whatever the exact cause, the governing structure through which, and around which the City operated had been reduced to metaphorical rubble, and the future looked bleak.

But as the dust begins to settle and the clouds of failure disperse green shoots of natural growth are reappearing.   Read More

To Empower we need structure…

The open letter in The Guardian on March 24th was a call to Ed Milliband to be brave, bold and visionary in articulating his dreams for the nation as we head towards the next election. The letter challenges Ed to look at what is really needed and possible, as Ken Robinson so beautifully puts it “.. (we are) trying to meet the future by doing what we did in the past”.  And thats not going to work is it??

It was a great letter. (And/but…) Read More

Mary Portas, can all high streets be Super High Streets?

bloomsbury_lambs_conduit_streetIn her recent article  Mary Portas is spot on when extolling  the opportunities that exist for the high street retailer who offers the combination of excellent customer service,  the ‘physical allure of beautifully displayed product’ and who understands the  opportunities that can exist online.

But not all retailers, and certainly not all high streets are equal.  What is possible in Lambs Conduit Street, may not be easily replicated in other high streets up and down the country, or in other retailers.  The basic truths that excellent customer service and product range will create a customer experience that is likely to inspire strong loyalty can (and should) be translated in all high street retailers. As a first step this will undoubtedly make a difference.

However, will this make a Super High Street alone?  No. Read More

Copyright © 2013 Clare Richmond