A bit old, but this Guardian business article is a good summary of the problems facing WH Smiths and by extension, many other long-standing-high-street-names-who-aren’t-Tesco.
“Last Christmas, evidently, WHS did not stock any children’s gift wrap, even though it accounts for a third of the wrapping paper market. Neither did it have any big boxes of value Christmas cards.”
You wouldn’t think it would be rocket science to run a shop, but apparently it is - at least to the people who run them rather than shop in them. A recent visit suggested that WHS are still struggling to get it right. BB wanted a suede-covered pocket diary for our Glamorous Research Assistant. We found some suede-covered address books of the right sort, but no diaries and, being in a rush, left the shop. On a second random visit, we found the matching diaries in a separate section that was not only nowhere near the rest of the range, but actually hidden around the corner from it. That was a close call, for both the GRA and WHS.
Their Manchester store has been badly redesigned, with high display racks that are certainly distinctive but make it seem claustrophobic, unless you’re trying to avoid someone (the security guard?). A few years ago, Smiths announced that they were cutting back their magazine range, which is like MacDonalds saying they want to move away from burgers…no, wait, it’s like British Gas focusing on selling electricity and phone lines…err… well, it’s like someone who does one thing very well suddenly deciding on a complete change of focus. If you can no longer buy your favourite magazine from WH Smith then why the hell would you go in there?? To buy chart CDs, DVDs and books? Did your local supermarket burn down, or do you think Britney’s latest turd might be improved by paying more for it?
Or take BHS: I bought a lot of fine, British-made socks from them a year or two ago and thought I’d found my sock retailer for life (you may laugh, but people used to think that about Marks & Spencer). Then they stopped selling them. A trawl of the Internet turned up the manufacturer’s web site and a link to an online retailer who had the complete range and would ship for free next day (as mentioned previously). To BHS, were they not so dense, that’s loyal custom that just walked out of their store and isn’t coming back.
To repeat ourselves, in a weary, peeved tone: we’re in the shop, we want to buy, we have the money: what part of this scenario do you not understand?!
BB’s guide to becoming a top retail guru (smirk)
- Don’t shop. Ever.
- Get someone else to do your shopping.
- Shop online.
- Only shop in much better places than the one you own.
- Have a lobotomy.
- Save time, declare insolvency now.