I don’t support small business, I support good service.

August 15, 2015

The coffee chain Coffee#1 is apparently to take over the empty shop that used to house Trumps, in Sidmouth.

A lot of local residents are complaining, citing various reasons why it shouldn’t happen.  It’s a chain, therefore apparently does nothing for the local economy.  It’s a coffee shop, where Sidmouth has a few already.  Also, it’s a change, which makes people feel uncomfortable.

A little history

Trumps of Sidmouth was a 200 year old groceries store in Sidmouth High Street.  It was located in a beautiful old building and was well known to the locals.

However in September 2014 the store was closed up and the windows papered over.  It had gone under financially and wasn’t able to stay open.

Sidmouth has a history of businesses closing and then being taken over by another type of business.  The charity shop.

Words cannot describe how much I detest and loathe charity shops.  I don’t argue that I’ve used them or even bought items in them, but frankly, if we’re talking about market saturation, charity shops are easily the worst offenders.

So, with a beautiful location like the old Trumps building opening up, it only makes sense for a chain company to be able to afford the upkeep.

We do have a lot of coffee shops

It’s true that Sidmouth already has a few coffee shops.  In fact it already has another chain, Costa Coffee (despite being a franchise and the location itself being an independant Limited business).

There are a few bars, hotels and restaurants that serve coffee and how many do I frequent?  2 in total.

There is a misnomer and guilt tactic used by small local businesses.  It says how you should support small businesses, which is of course true.  But small businesses shouldn’t be frequented blindly, just for the sake of it.

Over anything, you should support good service.  Customer service is seen as one of the top 4 reasons that a business will do well.

I go to Costa coffee regularly because their service is consistent, friendly and helpful.  It’s ingrained into their staff and they have a process that can be repeated.

Coffee#1 is where I go when I’m in Exeter because I can rely on a decent coffee, good service and getting what I expect.

The biggest problem that small, independant businesses have, not just in Sidmouth, is un-reliable service.

It creates jobs

Aside from Coffee#1 being a chain coffee house, Sidmouth already has dozens of chains.  HSBC, M&Co., Seasalt, Fatface, Barclays, Natwest, Saltrock, Costa, Joules, Shauls, Holland and Barratt, Tesco, Co-op, Moshulu, National Trust, Boots.  Those are off the top of my head.

We have banks, pharmacies, groceries, opticians, stores and shops.  Chain shops have the infrastructure, processes and reliability to create jobs and keep them.

A small totally independant shop may employ a few people, and that is one of the most incredible things you can do.  But people don’t go into business to stay stagnant.  You need growth, good employees and a repeatable process.  Chains have these, which is why they are successful.

There is literally no reason that small one person businesses can’t do the same.

There isn’t a market saturation

Market saturation happens when too many people offer the same thing.  Offer something slightly different, even in the same industry, and that can keep you afloat.

The irony is that I’ve had more ‘bad experiences’ with independent coffee shops, Sidmouth included, that offering something good should be their main priority.

“…a big chain that could take business from the local, family run coffee shops”.

This is a quote from the Sidmouth Herald.  Small family run businesses have a right to be concerned about larger businesses taking over, but the fact is that complaining doesn’t make it go away.  Upping your game and addressing what makes another businesses successful, that’s where you need to focus your energy.

If you genuinely believe, that you offer brilliant customer service.  If people can BANK on getting a reliable, repeatable product from you.  Then you have nothing to worry about.

If you are worried, you know it’s because you’re not offering what your customers want.

Let chains do the hard work for us

If a larger chain wants to invest thousands of pounds in employment, insurance, wages, infrastructure, marketing, training, processes and building maintenance.  Then I say let them.

We should welcome businesses like that with open arms.  Small businesses can look to larger businesses that have made a success and repeat the practices they’ve created.

Staff training, marketing and customer service are all things that can be repeated in your own store or business.

It DOES produce turnover that goes back into the town

If you employ people, whether you’re a manager or owner, you are a personal hero to me.  Providing jobs is one of the most noble and impressive things a person can do IF you treat staff fairly, give them room for progression and value their skills.

Employing people means you give them the resources to further spend money and time in the local economy.  It’s not a perfect cycle, but it does make an impact.

There are a few empty buildings in Sidmouth.  Although they are being filled, so they shouldn’t stay empty much longer.

The money for BUYING the building in the first place also goes back into the local economy.  Bars, restaurants, and stores all buy from all over the country.  As well as local suppliers.  It’s a valuable ecosystem that is slowly starting to favour local businesses over national chains anyway.

But as consumers, we should be privileged that we have such options.

It’s not another f***ing charity shop

I resent charity shops for hundreds of reasons.  Namely, they don’t employ people.  Shops are run by volunteers, which means that all profits (and charity shops make a BUCKTON of profit) go back to a large centralised office.  That money is then spent back on setting up more shops and BUYING the items that they sell.


That’s right, when you donate items to a charity shop, they don’t slap that in the store window and try to sell it.  Your items, particularly clothes are all sent to large industrial estates around the county.  They’re categorised and bundled up and bought BACK by the charity.  Items are then checked against prices online and sold at market value.

Why do they do this?  Well first, some of the bundles are SOLD to African countries for their markets.  By the way, there is no guarantee that what the African businesses buy is of any quality, it’s a seller’s lot with no refunds.

Secondly, if you can spend revenue of transporting and logistics for your clothes, you’re lowering your potential tax spends.  Aside from not paying business rates in the first place, charities hold very little morality in my view.

So to finish

If you’re concerned that we have too many of one type of business in Sidmouth, ask yourself what you REALLY want.

We have several outdoor shops.  Several shoe shops.  We have hairdressers and salons.  Accountants, coffee shops, charity shops, clothes shops, ice cream shops, furnishing shops, green grocers, butchers, bakers, estate agents, banks, stationers, home decoration, dress agents and pubs and restaurants.

The only shops that are TRULY unique in Sidmouth are SidSoft (IT and phone stuff), Gliddons toys (even that is registered with Toy Master.  Not that I have a problem with that, where else am I supposed to buy my lego?), Whoops-a-daisy (florists) and Flutterbys (the bead shop).  By all means, let me know if I’ve missed any.

But we shouldn’t be striving for complete independence for every single shop.  High street eco-systems don’t work like that.

If you’re a small business that is concerned with a larger business moving in, ask yourself why they’re a threat and address it.  Hint: It’s not because they have more money than you.  It’s because they have reliable and repeatable customer service and consistent processes that they can follow.


Share this!