Let’s Talk Your Shops


The development and maintenance of a vibrant town community capable of sustaining a range of key service provision has to be the desired objective of many of our key services centres.

The reality in many trading environments is that the overall independent retail provision has become extremely tired with limited inward investment, poor merchandising, a disillusioned operator base, falling footfall, rising operating expenses and failing profitability.

The result is reflected in neglected and uninspiring shop fronts, poor window displays, inappropriate product range, poor merchandising, ineffective layout and levels of customer service that often leave much to be desired. The overall impact within the shopping environment can be one that detracts from the retail vitality of the area, exacerbating customer diversion to more appealing retail centres and out of town shopping centres.

Many operators apportion blame towards the increasing extension of supermarket activities, growing utilisation of the Internet and e-commerce, lack of independent buying power and a customer base who no longer exhibit loyalty to their local businesses.

These assumptions are not totally wrong but, whilst these changes continue to impact on the market place, many independent retail businesses have been unable to identify how they can realign their business opportunities to maximise the remaining, and even more importantly, develop new retail opportunities within their individual business.

Charity Shops:

Local Charity shops are continuing to experience increasing pressure on their retail income due to undoubted competition from many of the larger national charitable brands.

Many of the nationally recognised charitable organisations have permanent access to professional expertise to help develop their business opportunities, have managed to acquire strong trading locations in our towns and benefit from generally positive media coverage of their activities.

Some even advertise the benefits they deliver on TV which creates strong awareness of the branding seen on their shops and may even be diverting donors and customers away from traditional local charitable outlets to the better positioned, nationally recognised brands.

At Let’s Talk Shop we recognise the impact that the economic climate is having on the retail vitality of many Charity Shops and are able to respond in a flexible way to help identify practical routes to improve trading vitality.

Additionally we understand the special relationships that exist between a charity and its volunteers and are able to provide specialised masterclass and practical in shop sessions to help focus the often disparate ideas and skills of a volunteer workforce into the opportunities that can be derived from a focused team.

As with all of our support we seek to provide cost effective, well presented and thoughtfully considered advice based upon practical experience of the retail environment.

Our objective is to build upon the positive, identify the possible and achieve the attainable – talk to us now for details of how we can help revitalise trading performance in your charity shop.

Rural Shops:

Since 1998 our Shop Doctor, Bill Smith, has been working across rural communities in Cheshire, Lancashire and Cumbria advising Village Shops, Post Offices, Garages and Public Houses how to maximise their retail vitality and seek route to onward sustainability.

As Retail Consultant and Rural Business advisor for The Countryside Agency between 1998 and 2005 the majority of rural shops in small communities across the North West were visited and advised and since 2005 similar work has been undertaken through a variety of projects supported by local authorities in Cheshire and Cumbria.

A recognised expert on issues impacting Post Office sustainability the Shop Doctor has also previously been commissioned to undertake a number of important studies relating to the impact of the Post Office Network Change  programme.

Research has also been undertaken in association with ‘Pub is the Hub’ to map village shops and pubs across Cheshire to help inform future action regarding joint service provision and identify routes to minimise rural retail closures and the subsequent negative impact on the communities served.

Food/Farmers Markets:

Responding to the need to improve trading vitality for stallholders participating in Farmers Markets across Dumfries and Galloway 8 stall holders at Dumfries Farmers Market received Let’s Talk Shop support in May 2014.

The stalls were visited and assessed by The Shop Doctor before compilation of a comprehensive Recommendations Report  to help each business maximise its retailing opportunity.

D& G foods, who operate the market, also received an overview report focused on identifying issues that would help all stall holders further develop their trading potentia

Traditional Markets:

Traditional indoor/outdoor markets are seeing similar challenges to those faced on our High Streets as a whole in addition to those affecting the perception of value being obtained from such businesses. With limited time presence in the towns concerned business vitality is materially impacted by a range of issues ranging from the general economic vibrancy of the town, weather conditions and, critically, the manner in which the operators engage with their customers, the perceived value of the products available and the manner in which the stalls and the products are displayed.


Shop Doctor Support programmes have previously been undertaken in:

Dumfries & Galloway: Moffat, Kirkudbright, Castle Douglas, Wigtown,  Dumfries

Argyll & Bute: Rothesay (within the Town Heritage Initiative)

East Lothian: Haddington, Dunbar, North Berwick

Dumfries & Galloway: Dumfries, Annan, Stranraer, Lockerbie, Gretna, Sanquhar, Thornhill, Dalbeattie

Cheshire East Council: Nantwich, Middlewich, Sandbach ,Crewe, Macclesfield, Poynton and Congleton.

Carlisle City Council: Brampton, Dalston, Longtown and Carlisle.

South Lakeland District Council: Ulverston and Kendal.

Eden District Council: Penrith, Alston, Appleby, Kirkby Stephen.

Blaenau Gwent Borough Council: Abertillery, Blaina, Bynmawr, Ebbw Vale, Tredegar (through Main Marketing & PR)

Flintshire County Council: Buckley, Connah’s Quay, Flint, Mold, Queensferry, Shotton (through Main Marketing & PR)

Support programmes specifically developed for the Charity Sector include work with:

The Bethany Christian Trust, Edinburgh

LIFE 2009

Business In The Community (BITC)

AgeUK South Lakeland


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