OK, I know we do most of our shopping online these days – in fact I can barely remember the last time I trotted up and down Guildford High street to find an outfit for some occasion or other or to see what bargains there were to be had in the ubiquitous sales. However much as I love the convenience and choice of buying online, there are two stores I will always want to visit in person and one of them is my vote for best ‘real’ shop.
For a start, virtual food shopping online doesn’t hack it for me. You can’t feel the fruit or veg or pick the ones that take your fancy. I need to see the aisles bursting with colourful produce to get inspiration. To say nothing of the fresh fragrance of fruit or the earthy smell of veggies such as beetroot. Of course there are negatives as well as positives – being tempted to buy lots of things that are not on your shopping list and lugging home bulky bags (although quite good exercise for one’s bingo wings!), being just two of the downsides.
Anyhow, apart from the joys of the supermarket, I would like to recommend one of my favourite ‘real’ shops. It’s called Timpsons. They offer a myriad of services, most of which used to be available in dusty old shops in small towns and villages. You know, a bit like haberdashery shops, which are few and far these days. Well Timpsons don’t do ribbons and buttons, but they can reheel your stilettos, sell you insoles and heel protectors, dry clean your duvet, cut keys, and provide you with a smart new watch strap. They’ll mend your clothes fix your mobile, or hire you a carpet cleaner. All these services are very useful, there’s no doubt about that. It’s a one stop problem-solving shop that you can find in the high street and on supermarket sites. But there’s so much more to this brand than what they can do for you.
This is a family business that stretches way back to when William Timpson opened his first shop in 1870. These days it is John Timpson who is at the helm and renowned for his upside down management style which has earned him a CBE and, this year, a knighthood. Working closely with the prison service, Timpson’s are able to identify potential candidates (happy, confident and chatty individuals) within prisons who have the right kind of personality to work within the business. It’s a closely managed process from selection, training and mentoring up to release. In fact 10% of Timpson’s 5200 workforce were recruited directly from prison. Another wonderful policy of this company is that they help unemployed people who are going for an interview by dry cleaning their interview outfit free of charge.
There is real autonomy for their staff and no cumbersome admin-heavy head office. Excellent customer service is the key to Timpson’s proven success – their annual turnover is in excess of £250m. Staff have total authority to do whatever they can to amaze customers. If they make a mistake, they put it right there and then without the need to speak with a manager. I have seen this at first hand at my branch at Broadbridge Heath. I had just picked up my husband’s dry cleaning and was walking towards my car, when I clumsily dropped the trousers in a puddle. I went straight back to Timpsons to get them re-cleaned but the assistant, Rob, refused to let me pay. Where else do you get such amazing service? You used to see it in the expensive designer stores, but not these days. All I can say is that in a world of greedy businesses where shortcutting customers is a regular thing (think ever shrinking products, waiting ages for customer service to answer the phone etc), I am delighted that such a genuinely well meaning company as Timpsons is thriving. Long may they last.