Bricks and Mortar Excellence in an Online World

It’s really easy to shop online and we’re seeing the effects on our High Streets with stores closing and being replaced by cafes and false shop fronts.  We’re even seeing a trend for large department stores in shopping malls to be replaced by data centres, using the space for server racks rather than clothes rails.


It was refreshing on a recent trip to Cardiff to discover the art of great retail alive and well.

Our first experience was at Rules of Play, a board game shop we noticed whilst walking through one of Cardiff’s arcades  filled with independent shops.  Although small, the shop was well stocked, with one of just about everything a board game shopper might want, and a friendly and helpful assistant to guide people on what to buy.  After picking up a new release we spotted a copy of Roads and Boats, a game released about ten years ago that has been out of print for some time.  There was no assistance needed, we were buying the game.  Whilst Grail Quest remains the Holy Grail of board games, Roads and Boats comes pretty close.

Taking it to the counter with a huge smile and a “shut up and take my money” look, the assistant smiled as he rang up the sale. “It’s funny, when this game came in I asked the owner what it was, so I could talk to people about it, and he told me I didn’t need to know because if someone asked they wouldn’t buy it, but if someone came in and knew what it was they’d just buy it, no questions asked.  I thought he was mad, but he’s right”.   He called the owner through from the back.

The owner explained that he’d been offered three copies at a convention and he’d snapped them up.  Here’s where his retail sparkle came through.  He hadn’t put them on the shop’s website.  He knew that if he did they’d be snapped up by someone who would never set foot in his store, and who may well put the game straight onto eBay to make a profit.  He wanted people to be surprised and delighted by seeing the game in his shop.  He wanted to see those faces of retail joy, and he wanted to give those people, and the friends they’d tell of their experience a great reason to always pop into his little store when they were in the neighborhood to check out what was new, safe in the knowledge that they’d stay for a chat and buy something whilst they were there.

A trip to Brogue Trader for some smart work shoes saw old fashioned service, careful measurement and a sensible discussion about style.  Whilst the products available in the shop were also available on line, the in store service was such a delight that it’s now a destination in its own right.

Plenty of chain stores have closed in Cardiff, and those that survive know they need to create a fun shopping experience, of the big brands in town Apple was doing its thing, and the Lego shop was welcoming people in to play, both knew that people might buy elsewhere, but their brand was being built by their in store experience as people would accept no substitutes.

What are you doing to make your sales offer more compelling than an online alternative?