“Know your customer” is the motto of John Shrimpton, the general manager of Booker’s Chichester cash and carry in West Sussex.
He says that over the years he’s probably visited all 800 of his retailer customers’ outlets, not to mention the 3,000 pubs and restaurants supplied by his cash and carry.
Shrimpton has been in charge of the 34,000 sq ft Booker depot for the past 11 years, with the exception of one year at its Aldershot depot.
The cash and carry serves a friendly catchment area that receives a lot of tourist trade in the summer. Shrimpton tries to greet all his customers by name.
“It’s important to have a bit of rapport with people you have shopping with you three times a week,” he says. “Customers like to be able to talk about issues. Sometimes they query price against our competitor; everyone is trying to save money. Or if you have just had something delivered, you might go and find it for a customer. When you sort problems out, you build a loyal base of customers.”
Shrimpton is upbeat about the future of independent retailers, despite the march of the multiples into convenience territory.
He says one of his customers, a retailer in Bognor Regis, was initially concerned when a Tesco Express opened just 500 yards away. However, the retailer decided to convert his store to Booker’s new Premier fascia, and the refit has paid off, helping him to exceed the required Premier average weekly sales targets.
Shrimpton advises his customers to think positive and take advantage of any sales opportunities presented by special events. For example, with Euro 2004 just weeks away, customers can expect sales of beers, wine and spirits to boom, and will no doubt be hoping England progress well in the competition.