professional services

retail revitalisation, store survival

Aspatria Farmers Ltd is an agricultural co-operative formed in 1870 by a group of West Cumbrian farmers who were disillusioned with the quality of products they were being supplied and the service they received from the local agricultural suppliers in business at that time.

Since then they have diversified their product range into a number of sectors including domestic pet and equestrian supplies, household products, gardening, clothing (leisure, workwear, equestrian), footwear and amenity products (for use on golf courses, forestry, football pitches, industrial sites, etc).

What is not as well recognised as it might be is that Aspatria Farmers is open to the general public and that the values of “quality, service, price” established in 1870 continue to be upheld.

Change is in hand at Aspatria Farmers and our Shop Doctor will be working with them to help ensure that they successfully continue to meet the needs of their membership whilst maximising their retail store opportunities and reaching out to a wider customer base.



nationalbooktown1611Wigtown will be the next town to participate in the Let’s Talk Shop Support Programme facilitated by Dumfries & Galloway Council.

A Retail Masterclass on the evening of Monday 21st July will be followed by one-to-one advisory visits from The Shop Doctor on subsequent days.

Up to 12 retailers in the town will be eligible for visits and each will be able to apply for a grant of up to £500 towards the implementation of recommendations made during the visits and within the comprehensive reports provided to each of the participating businesses.

Since the support programme commenced, over 150 independent retailers across Dumfries, Annan, Stranraer, Lockerbie, Gretna, Dalbeattie, Langholm, Thornhill, Sanquhar, Kirkconnel, Newton Stewart and Castle Douglas have been involved.

A further 68 retailers will be engaged in the scheme during the remainder of the current programme.

To register for the ‘Let’s Talk Shop’ Masterclass, contact the Council on 030 33 33 3000 and ask for Stephanie Carrick in Economic Development or e-mail

For further information on the Let’s Talk Shop Programme overall, contact Grant Coltart, Economic Development Officer, Planning & Environment Services Department on 01387 260327 or e-mail

IMG_9208Following a recent request for advice our Shop Doctor was pleased to meet with the committee responsible for running this small community shop based in an outbuilding of the Derby Arms Pub in Witherslack , Cumbria.

The committee was last advised when the shop was near to opening its doors in 2008 and, since then, although the business has seen growth some seasonal ebbing and flowing in relation to meeting local need has not yet enabled the shop to achieve its potential.

The dedicated committee of volunteers now feels that a sales plateau has been reached and have been keen to seek ways to further develop the business, hence their call to Let’s Talk Shop.

After spending some time meeting with the committee and reviewing the shop a short recommendations report has been provided identifying a list of opportunities that should help the business to develop even further. In addition it is hoped that the all involved in running the shop have been motivated by the visit and will be able to assess potential opportunities from a different perspective.

The shop is operated as an Industrial and Provident Society for the Benefit of the Community.

IMG_2501 website

June has seen yet more independent shops in Scotland receiving Shop Doctor support in ongoing support programmes funded  by East Lothian Council and Dumfries & Galloway Council.

A total of 21 ‘on-to-one’ shop visits  took place across North Berwick, Haddington, Dunbar, Gretna and Lockerbie in June with a further 6 shops in Lockerbie scheduled for a visit in early July. Every visit is supported by a comprehensive Shop Doctor report detailing practical opportunities considered available to improve business vitality within each of the businesses concerned.

Commenting on the visits our Shop Doctor advised that “There continues to be  a tremendous variety of retail choice available on our High Streets with independent retailers providing a critical role in maintaining the unique identity of the fabric of a town” and added  “retailers, local councils, landlords and the general public each have an important role to play in sustaining business vitality in our towns and all need to work towards a common goal”.

This year has not been the best  for footfall and revenue generation at many attractions.  The negative impact of the Olympics on incoming tourism , unforgiving weather conditions and the ongoing gloom over the economic climate all contributing to a severe downturn in attendance figures across the sector.

Taking time out to look at your attraction from an impartial viewpoint, particularly that of the customer,  is never easy and certainly one of the major challenges facing retailers in their fight for survival on our high streets.

Applying his extensive business development skills, understanding of how customers perceive and use space and wide marketing expertise our ‘Shop Doctor’ can bring a refreshing insight into identifying issues impacting on business performance at visitor attractions.

Looking at an attraction through  a fresh pair of eyes can provide an insight into the business that may not have previously been considered. Link this to recommendations as to how to improve the way the attraction interfaces with the customer, ideas to improve catering or retail efficieny and suggestions regarding routes to effective diversification the outome could prove very stimulating. 

If you are considering how to revitalise your attraction in time for 2013 now might be a good time to talk to Let’s Talk Shop.  Our skills are not just orientated towards retail development alone, they are transferable into any business where direct customer interface and delivery of high levels of customer service are critical to maintaining existing levels and, ideally, attracting increased and profitable attendance in the future.

The ever increasing presence of professional services providers on our high streets can materially affect the visual ambiance of the trading environment in which they operate.

When contemplating establishing such a business on the high street care needs to be taken to ensure that the visual impact created by the business compliments the trading environment rather than conflicting with it.

Existing providers could often do with taking a regular look outside as first impressions really do play an important role in attracting or detracting customer or clients interest and all too often the impact is less than effective.

Whether a solicitor or accountant, doctor or dentist making sure that those important first impressions impact favourably on your clients can materially affect the onward vibrancy of your business.

Let’s Talk Shop can help you make the right decisions, from the name on the fascia to the colour and presentaion of the ‘shopfront’ , the effectiveness of window displays to getting clients through the door and, once they are in, making sure they feel comfortable.