A lot of people view reality TV shows, and especially those dolling out advice to businesses, as fickle and one-dimensional, offering no real value beyond a quick fix of publicity to those involved. Regular column readers will know that I helped out on the first season of BBC Two’s The Fixer, alongside The Hotel Inspector, Alex Polizzi, and I wanted to share with you the success story of one of the businesses we assisted – Courtyard Bridal Boutique in Kettering.
It’s over a year now since I first met with the business for filming with the Twofour Broadcast team. When we started, Courtyard Bridal Boutique had issues not uncommon with family businesses – where family politics spilled over into the business in a non-too helpful manner. The bridal store itself was dated with no cohesive design theme, had poor branding and the environment as a whole lacked that inspirational edge required to inspire young brides to shop for what many perceive as the biggest day of their lives.
At the time, I proposed a revitalised instore proposition for the business and this was then implemented by Twofour, the family themselves and local contractors.
One year on and a lot has changed – business is booming!
Sisters Rhiannon Moore and Bethan McCall have bought their mother, Anne Preece, out of the business and are now the sole owners, with Mum still involved in the day-to-day operation, providing expert alterations to the gowns. The average transaction value has increased by £600 and turnover has risen by an enormous 25%. In 2012 the business dressed 137 brides and, astonishingly, it already has 120 booked in for 2013. The sisters are expecting this figure to at least double. Finally, the business has been shortlisted for two major bridal awards since the show, has exclusive arrangements with a top designer and its price point has risen from £300-£2000 to £1000-£3,500. Doesn’t sound like a contemporary retail story at all, does it?
So why have things been so successful? In the main, it’s due to the fact that the sisters took on board the advice given to them by Alex and myself and made this their absolute focus. We provided them with the vision of what the Boutique could look and run like, got the ball rolling for them and off they went, sticking to the plan with discipline and making it work for them and their customers. Like all business improvement projects, reality TV projects can work if the advice is realistic, sincere and proven and the business owners are focused and committed to the end results.
Here’s what Rhiannon says about the things that have changed in the business, as a result of The Fixer.
“We have done everything that people asked us to do in the show. Following the advice of Karl and The Fixer team, we vastly improved our store layout to make it shop in a more ordered and inspirational manner for customers.
“We find that people really enjoy the new layout, and they especially like the statement window that we were advised to create. We keep this fresh and simple, last month adding some wellies to the mannequins to reflect the weather we were having, which had an enormous impact with people stopping to take a look.
“We have worked hard to create the exclusive but not excluding look discussed on The Fixer and, as part of this, customers now have to ring a bell to enter the store and they’re greeted likes guests when they come in.
“A piece of advice that Karl gave us to help improve the customer experience was to get rid of any element of time. We took out the clocks to stop customers feeling time pressured and we have staggered appointments to ensure that we can spend the right amount of time with our brides.
“One improvement that we have still to make is to buy LED lights to show off the gowns with an even better effect. Everything has changed for the better with the store – the financials and sales as Karl has mentioned, but also the new found order and focus has even meant that our family has changed – we actually get on again!”
For me, it’s always great to see how a simple retail improvement project can work so well for an independent family retailer, using the same methods and best practices as the big brand stores. It’s about focusing on the customer, carefully targeted investment, delivering a great store experience through VM and service, and ultimately about getting the small details right.
I’ll be working alongside Alex Polizzi again in the new series of The Fixer, and you can be safe in the knowledge that when the world of retail throws its experts into reality TV – I’ll get results! And, if you need any more convincing that the reality TV format can work, just take a look at Kettley’s – the furniture store in the last series that we also transformed. Their business has boomed since appearing in the show and have commissioned their first run of big budget TV adverts.
Both Kettley’s and Courtyard Bridal will also feature on a ‘where are they now’ Fixer catch up show to be aired soon. Another business that we transformed in the series, Props and Frocks, the Essex based fancy dress store, has just opened a sister company, offering a one stop party planning service. It seems like the good times are only just beginning for all the families involved.
The new series of The Fixer starts on Tuesday 12 February, 8pm, BBC Two.