Mark Hayes is an entrepreneur, retailer and craftsman. He has a stunning showroom in Milton Keynes and has been a lighting retailer for many years. Like many of you his business has been adversely affected by the giant online retailers which has seriously affected sales and margins for many independent retailers. However, Mark has taken on the giants head on and has been manufacturing his own bespoke lighting on his premises.
He created his own brand Fish Originals last year and has developed a following amongst his customers who are looking for authentic and original designs not found from main stream suppliers. He can produce traditional designs with styles and colours to suit the customers needs. And of course, the big advantage is that he doesn’t have to compete with the internet.
There is a growing need for independent retailers to specialise and I have met many bricks-and-mortar retailers who are either importing their own products or crafting bespoke or limited run fittings. In 1930, Lord Beaverbrook raised a warning voice in an article written for the Daily Express when he said,
‘Rather more than two centuries ago, Louis XIV called us a nation of shopkeepers. Today I am afraid, he would call us a nation of inefficient shopkeepers. It is not enough for us to follow the tradition of his days; we must strike out on the new lines to meet the utterly changed conditions of modern city life.’
These fears were a result of the rise of the national chain stores at the time. Today, independent retailers are facing a similar threat from the giant online retailers. Even though the character of the competition is different the threat is still as real. There were many small shopkeepers who went to the wall in the 1930s because they were unable or unwilling to adapt to the changing climate. Independent retailers who cling to the traditions of the past will at best limp along, struggling to make a living.
In June 1935, the Small Trader began a series called ‘How to Start Out in Business’. Alluding to the story of David slaying Goliath with a stone, one writer argued that ‘When David is an independent trader, and Goliath a chain store, you must bring your weapons up to date.’ Do you need to bring your weapons up to date? Are you fighting for the same customer with the same products and the same message as the giants?
Perhaps we can learn from Mark and create our own products and brands or even team up with him and share ideas? Until next time remember to Be Inspired, Be a Leader in your industry and of course…Succeed
1 Contact Mark via his website at www.refinedlighting.co.uk
2 Daily Express, 17 Jan 1930.
3 Independent Trader and Retailers Review 1 (12), June 1936: 375-76.