Mary Portas Queen of Shops BBC programme is helping small local businesses. This week she focussed on a greengrocers. It was excellent TV – we saw drama and disagreements, and excellent business and marketing inspiration.
How could a business owner benefit from the programme?
Mary herself comes across as very authentic and natural. She doesn’t do consultant-speak, she is very unstuffy and wears cool funky clothes (I especially like the ankle boots!) , she gets up early cheerfully if she has to, and she is sensitive to others feelings but not afraid of confrontation, nor of saying when she feels down. Above all the has a great energy and sense of purpose…and a sense of humour! All very refreshing and a good role model.
She operated in the real world and was on top of the facts. She said that 5000 small shops closed last year, and that half the number of greengrocers exist now compared to ten years ago, despite the fact that in the UK we spend 8 billion on fruit and veg a year. Plus the salient point that sales of local produce have increased by a third, and that the veg box market is worth £ 170m.
She enrolled others in the vision and kept going despite setbacks. One sister was on board with the new ideas (so she suggested she be in change) one was resistant to all change, and one was on the fence. I was particularly impressed that she commented on the lack of enthusiasm even while they were in Harrods Food Hall, and was happy to challenge.
The shop moved from undifferentiated to specialist. Doing one thing well (providing quality local produce to the local community) made the shop better and more relevant than the supermarket. Dominating a niche as a specialist is more effective than being generalist.
The personalities of the sisters became part of the brand rather than simply being all about the fruit and veg. It made the shop more memorable with the new logo and photographs compared with its previous incarnation or a supermarket. Small businesses naturally have loads of personality.
The physical premises became more inviting. With Mary’s magic wand and money from either the BBC or her company the shop became more contemporary and more values-based. Local prodice was not only sourced but also described more fully. Customers were invited to come in to a welcoming space, to read, to come to the launch party, and of course to take action and buy.
The owners’ assumptions about their customers were challenged. The sisters were shocked by the negative attitude of shoppers in the supermarket “before” and couldn’t believe “after” that providing what they thought customer wanted would be acceptable. A woman said she would pay £ 10 – not the £8 they had imagined, and one man on the step of his house said that he would enjoy receiving a surprise box of fruit and veg for the week. Mary made the most of this by giving him a hug! Sometimes businesses have to listen (and it can be tough) and sometimes take the lead, and this was a lovely example.
I am sure there were other aspects which will occur to me at some point.
Did you watch the programme? What did you like about it?
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