Store manager Kim Hayton tells Laura Barnes how word of mouth recommendations can be more powerful than marketing and how being part of a vendor partner programme sets the business apart.
What services do you offer?
Under one roof we offer every element of IT that we can, whether that’s network installation, a server, or just a home user needing a laptop. We offer broadband services as well.
We’re based in the heart of the Lake District in Windermere. It’s a 2,000 square foot shop with an engineering department. We stock Android tablets and laptops as well as usual peripherals like mice, keyboards and cables.
What sets your company apart?
On average, our engineering department can turn things round in one to two days. If people have purchased a laptop from us that needs repairing we offer a courtesy laptop. We try to offer the cheapest price points we can with the highest level of customer service. We also build our own desktop PCs, so we can offer a high level of service on them.
Tell us how you went about setting up your business... It was set up in a small store in 1996. We outgrew that property within a couple of years and moved into our current one. This one has filled out now and we’re running out of room again.
What’s your online presence like?
We’ve got Facebook and Twitter accounts and we regularly post promotions. It’s been quite difficult getting a core of followers that actually want to see your updates, but we’re getting there.
It’s a little surprising how many tech businesses we speak to that don’t use social media... It doesn’t surprise me. You can be so busy looking after customers. It’s a bit like a decorator’s house – always the last to be painted.
You’re part of the Brother vendor partner programme. How has this helped your business?
Knowing that I can just ring the head of marketing and say “I need this”, or “can you help me with this?” is great. Whether it’s service, sales or marketing, I can get to who I need to speak to quickly.
We are a service centre for Brother as well, so we can repair the machines ourselves, which is good for customers.
Because we’re a Brother reseller, we can also offer a three-year warranty on any of their inkjet products. So there are a couple of good selling points that we can offer that others can’t.
What can other vendors do better to help retailers like yourself?
We’ve found recently that point of sale seems to be the first thing dropped to save budget. It used to be that every couple of months we received a big box full of posters and goodies to put in the window. We just don’t get that anymore. There’s a lot of online stuff to be printed but it doesn’t have the same impact. It’s a shame as it makes in-store displays and windows more difficult.
Dixons has recently unveiled its new Travel stores with interactive catalogues and giant screens. Do you think a High Street store needs to be this technical to make it exciting for people to visit, or should the focus be more on good customer service?
For us, word of mouth is a huge thing. In fact we rely on it. We do very little advertising. Recommendations work best for us.
People like to get hands-on with things. All our laptops are on display, so people can switch it on and see how they like the keyboard or touchpad. It makes a big difference having things on display.
What do you think of the new PayPal check in scheme? Would you consider using it in your store?
It wouldn’t really work for our particular customer base, who still like to physically pay for things.
I can understand the principle of it, but from a retailer’s point of view I’d be concerned about processing the payment. It may be something that catches on in the future but at the moment I think there’s probably a few security concerns out there.