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buying trends in store also: “It’s really September/October for any major items, while smaller items can be ordered as and when needed.” An independent sports specialist in business for over 100 years, Hubble and Freeman prides itself on quality service at ‘internet prices’ - so it knows what it’s up against. An astute businessman, Simon veers away from chintzy decorations in store, preferring to focus on what Millet Sports is known for: great products and prices, with the service to match: “Other than put a few decorations up we don’t do a lot in store” he says bluntly. “Online we try to put popular products on landing pages, with a Christmas theme around the site. We also increase the number of email campaigns, well targeted to the customer. This all takes place around the fi rst week of November online, with decorations going up in the shop in December to tie in with the rest of the high street.” Paul remains equally focussed during the Christmas period: “Apart from the obvious i.e Christmas decorations, stock gets moved around the store to freshen things up. New items or any products on promotion get put in a prominent position.” With economic doom and gloom


reported in the media daily and households nationwide feeling the pinch, do people really have money to spend this Christmas? Simon thinks so: “Yes absolutely, we still expect a very busy Christmas. People still put money aside and make the effort,” he said. Paul, however, is not so sure: “I don’t think people have much to spend, they are now more inclined to ask for discount or price check on the internet.” With much of the conversation geared toward retail in general, it was time to focus on what this industry is all about: sport. Asked what will be popular this Christmas, Simon has a good idea of what to expect: “We cover 26 different sports and at Christmas, all the sports come together. Cricket and summer sports represent a

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aul Tucker of Hubble and Freeman in Maidstone, Kent has noted

good opportunity for the brands. It’s a good way for them to introduce a range pre Christmas and sell some product.

We always get individual items pop up at Christmas, like football tables and table tennis tables. On other end of the scale, Wacky sox and gym mats sell well as stocking fi llers, while football clothing and equipment, and fi tness products are popular gift purchases too. We stock about 16,000 different products online. In store, we try to keep stock fresh and full - with full size ranges - making sure the products we carry are popular. If something isn’t selling, we always have the option to reduce it online.” Clearly, a strong online presence can work well alongside a bricks and mortar store, but real investment is needed if retailers are to benefi t fully. Hubble and Freeman’s Paul Tucker reports similar fi ndings: “Fitness related products sell really well alongside any speciality products linked to Christmas. For example, last year we bought in Wacky Sox which are individual bright design hockey/rugby Socks ideal stocking fi llers. Also darts is very popular as it has a lot of television coverage in December and January.” Asked what can retailers do to compete for the customer’s pound, he says simply: “Promote their websites and be very price conscious.” “ A lot of retailers have a website/ shop window but if no one passes it, it’s no use,” said Simon. “The bar is higher; there is a lot more competition nowadays - a website needs to be kept updated, there has to be marketing activity, a good customer service department; people not only want next day delivery, but the exact time of delivery. It’s a whole different model now and in a lot of ways, it’s a lot harder than it is to run a shop.” So there you have it. The opportunities are

there this Christmas but it’s not enough to raise the shutters in the morning and wait for a stampede of shoppers to appear in a gift buying frenzy. Retailers have to put themselves on the map in store and online and the preparations can’t afford to wait like the Christmas decorations in a dusty box doing nothing until December, the work must begin way before ....

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