Valuable life lessons can come in many varied and often unexpected forms, so it pays to keep your eyes open for them as they can be easy to miss.
A case in point is a simple yet very powerful lesson I learned last month while on a study tour with, among others, the high profile and highly successful Coventry retailer Paul Cheema.
As part of an ACS-organised trip we visited Milan to have a nosy around a bunch of stores of all shapes, sizes and types to see what lessons we could learn from our Italian retailing cousins. Over dinner on the first night we were discussing the value of study tours and Paul made it very clear that he viewed study tours as the fuel that keeps his business moving forward. I’m paraphrasing here (as I didn’t have a notepad with me for dinner), but he basically said that one of the most useful things that any local retailer can do to improve their store is go out and see the inside of other stores.
We discussed how pretty much all retailers see the value in study tours – but far fewer actually get round to doing them. We can all come up with a hundred excuses why we can’t afford to take the time out of the business. Paul’s view is that you can’t afford not to take the time out of the business to see how others are moving retail forward and take from them what you can.
The discussion reminded me of that famous Monty Python scene about dismantling the apparatus of the entire Roman empire and how we should “get off our arses and stop talking about it”. All too often we talk a good game but don’t turn it into action.
Paul, however, is a man of action. The next day we visited countless stores, some of them breath-taking, and as a group we discussed some of the ideas that we would be taking home to improve our own stores – and we found a lot of great ideas. Meanwhile, Paul has been on the phone throughout the day to his brother back in Coventry at the store. He was so impressed with the colourful, inviting fresh fruit and veg displays outside so many Milan stores that he decided he should do the same with his store. That day.
So, by about 5pm that day his brother had found a nice table and some rustic baskets and had built a five-metre fruit and veg display outside the front of his store and was already beginning to rack up the sales. We hadn’t even had our first Aperol Spritz by the time Paul had turned a nice idea into reality.
I’m sure I’m not alone in having a long list of great ideas I really want to implement in my store but haven’t quite got round to yet. It’s time to start getting round to them.
Antony Begley, Publishing Director