talking shop

‘I feel like we are all on the same team’

Josie Matthews reports on how buying group Radius gave independent retailerCombens a competitive edge on their ‘island’


o man is an island, as the saying goes. But when you’re fighting a losing battle on the High Street with

ever decreasing prices and margins, you may feel as if you’re marooned on one, and totally alone. That is where membership of a buying

group such as Radius becomes a vital part of a retailer’s business. At the Radius conference in Birmingham

earlier this year, director Mark Pugh reported on the group’s expansion in terms both of brands and membership, with several “new, younger, highly switched-on and motivated retailers” coming on board.

We are buying

smarter, and can be competitive so that we’re not selling for nothing

One such member is 26 year old Matthew

Jones, managing director of Combens, a family business in Portland, Dorset. His store is practically on the proverbial island, as only a causeway connects it to Weymouth on the mainland. “It’s not very easy to get to our store and

there is a reluctance for people to travel from Weymouth,” he says, adding, “but when they do, they usually buy.” Until a few years ago there were several

electrical outlets on the island but with the rise of the internet, coupled with the recession, these have closed. Currys, Combens’ biggest competitor in nearby

Weymouth, is also a source of new customers! “So many people come to us from Currys because they didn’t get served properly or they didn’t stock what they wanted,” Matthew explains.

‘The communication is excellent’ Combens started life as a furniture shop in 1862, eventually expanding into electrical and

was the first company on the ‘island’ to sell colour TV. Matthew’s father, Phil, originally worked

for the company as an apprentice before his mother bought them out 50 years ago. Starting as a ‘Saturday boy’, it was not long before Matthew joined the family business full time, eventually becoming a TV service engineer. A couple of years ago Phil ‘sacked himself’ as

managing director to let his only son take over the reins. Matthew picks up the story from here.

“Before we joined Radius it was a real headache,” he says. “Consumers would check an internet price on their phones and compare it with the price tag in store. And then walk away. It was very disheartening.” Since joining Radius last November, this has all changed. “We don’t have that headache,” Matthew comments. “We are buying smarter, and can be competitive so that we’re not selling for nothing.” Matthew first met Radius director Mark Pugh at a Samsung training event a couple of years ago.

Combens managing director Matthew Jones took up the reins of the family business and is looking to drive it on with a planned destination store and more in-shop events 12 | September 2018

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