How long have you been established and how big is the team today?
My Grandparents first started the business shortly after the Second World War as a painting and decorating business. They moved to the current premises in 1957 which was already an existing retail store selling bikes, toys and nursery products. We became a limited company in 1963 and we currently employ 20 people.
What products do you stock?
We stock a wide range of nursery products but concentrate on prams & pushchairs, car seats, nursery furniture and interiors.
Describe your customer base and how you compete with the multiples.
We attract a broad spectrum of customers from all walks of life. We offer a wide range of products at competitive prices coupled with a high standard of staff knowledge and customer service. We have a comprehensive training plan for all members of staff that ensures we know all our products thoroughly. As a small business we are able to react quickly to changing market conditions and this helps us compete in what is a very competitive market place.
As a business, you must have seen quite a few changes in trends?
I have been in the family business since 1994 and I think there have been two major changes in our industry. I feel that our customers are now much more fashion conscious and brand led than before. Mamas and Papas started it all off with their Italian fashion prams in the nineties and they raised the bar for all the other companies to aim for. Increased brand awareness and the creation of more aspirational brands, such as Bugaboo and Stokke has led to customers spending vast sums of money on products in order to keep up with the favourite celebrities in Hello magazine! But the main change, of course, is the Internet. It has revolutionized the way we research and buy products. The ‘Information Super Highway’ has given the consumer the ability to shop, compare prices and products, gathering information quickly without leaving their homes.
How long does a customer typically spend in store?
It is difficult to say as some customers seem to know exactly what they want and can be in and out within 10-15 minutes where as others can be in store literally all day and then return a few days later for another few hours. We aim to offer a relaxed and professional environment where the customer feels at ease and can make their choice within their own time.
What about aftercare, what is your returns policy?
We pride ourselves on our after sales service and whilst it is difficult to please all of our customers all of the time, we do have policies in place to try and attain this goal. We have a dedicated service department with two full time members of staff and this investment has helped streamline the after sales process and increase our customer satisfaction when products (inevitably) have problems. I do think that the suppliers could help us more. Most service departments are very good but there a still a few who unintentionally make life difficult with some awkward after-sales policies.
You now have a very strong mail order and online platform, enabling you to help customers nationwide. When did you set these up and how effective are they as a source of revenue?
We set up our website in May 2004 with just myself processing the orders. The business grew quickly and we now have a separate dedicated mail order team. The website brings clear benefits to the business in terms of sales but it also helps to drive customers in store. Customers who may live outside our usual catchment area see us online and make the journey to the store to touch and feel the products they have seen on the website.
Congratulations on winning National Retailer of the Year 2009, as voted for by the Baby Products Association. What’s the secret of your success?
I am not sure! We try our hardest to get the basics right and most other things slot into place as a result. Running a business in the current economic climate is not easy and it was a real compliment to win the Retailer award and is a fair reflection of the whole team at Winstanleys Pram World.
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