considered and can take time, so he wants end-users to enjoy the journey. “We didn’t want the pushy salesman,” he explains. “If people want to spend 45 minutes going through all the colours or wallpaper, I want them to feel they are able to. We will pass by and ask if they are ok but we want it to be an enjoyable experience. “We like to think our staff are like waiters in a good restaurant – you know when to ask if they need help – you read the signals.” Being able to offer a wider range of products was also part of the strategy. Reeds has always stocked Dulux Trade and Mr Mead explains that the main drivers in the standalone paint shop were Farrow & Ball and Little Greene Paint Company, so these brands remain staples in Reeds’ offer. However, the extra space has mean adding in Crown Trade and its Historic Colours collection, as well as Dulux Heritage, so the store now boasts a good range of traditional colours. He has also been able to increase Reeds’ offer of Tor Coatings’ problem-solving sealers and primers. “It works well and they are great products,” he says. Jumping on the trend for painting furniture, Reeds now offers Rust- Oleum’s chalky finish paint, and although Mr Mead isn’t the biggest fan of the current fad, he recognises the potential. “It’s great for giving something a refresh for six to 12 months but it’s not a long-term solution. There is a market for it though. We have a reasonable- sized offer and it does very, very well.” Other new additions in store, include the Sadolin Superdec range of colours and an increased range of Cuprinol and Hammerite products.

Finding the right balance While the number of retail customers shopping at Reeds has increased by around 10% following the move, the trade still account for 60% of the retailer’s client base and Mr Mead explains how important it is to make sure you are catering for both customer type. “It’s important we know what we’re talking about but we have to be careful how we pass that knowledge on,” says Mr Mead. “We serve decorators and members of the public, so we have to pitch it differently depending on who we’re talking to.”

For members of the public, the

showroom atmosphere and advice on product is an important part of the service, while lifestyle displays and brush-out boards help inspire them to envision their decorating project. Mr Mead’s wife and co-director, Fiona also offers a sort

of colour consultation, helping retail customers pull schemes and complete looks together. With her background in art history, she understands colours and how they work really well,” says Mr Mead. “She understands the differences between warm and cold greys and what colours work with them, so she can give customers real guidance.” Trade customers, on the other hand, want a very different experience and it’s up to the team at Reeds to make sure they offer that. “For our retail customers it’s about empowering them and helping them to make an informed choice. Decorators want to get in and out – some even call ahead and ask us to get the product ready for them and then run in and pick it up.” However, there is a crossover, with many of the trade now sending their customers in to buy decorating materials. “It means they can say to them ‘you pick the colours you want’ and then we can work through the shopping list with the client in store.” In this instance, the product knowledge and guidance Mr Mead and his team offer is an important part of the service for professional decorators. “The trade guys tell us that one of their issues is having to put more coats of paint on when doing a job, so they direct their customer to us because they know we can steer them in the right direction and towards superior paints that offer better coverage.”

Tricks of the trade

When it comes to helping customers make informed decisions about colour and products, there are a number of tools and tricks a retailer can have up his sleeve, says Mr Mead. The shop offers a colour scanner that allows shoppers to bring in an item and get the colour of the paint matched exactly.

12 MAY 2017 DIY WEEK 13

Asking the right questions is also vital when customers are making a colour choice. “You have to ask things like ‘what colour is your carpet or flooring?’, ‘what type of room is it?’, ‘is it north or south facing?’ - because all of these things can make a difference.” He continues: “There are certain tricks, like using the brush-out boards and taking them to the window so you can see the colour in that light or, if a customer wants to have pink on the walls and grey on the woodwork, you put the brush-out boards together and you overlay the wall one with it, so just a small amount of the grey shows and you get the balances right. It can look completely different. You can also mask off the other colours so there is no distraction. It’s not rocket science but people don’t always think about all of these things and it can really affect how a colour will look.” Another essential role that Reeds plays is helping to build a vital link

and dialogue between supplier and end-user. As that middle man, Mr Mead jokingly refers to the business as ‘Mr 10%’. But the retailer is doing an important job, bridging that gap between brand and customer. “My clients offer the best feedback,” says Mr Mead. “We are a link to what our customers want and we relay that back to the suppliers. We also understand what our suppliers are trying to do and we can pass that on to our customers. We say to our suppliers, ‘if you have a product you think is really good, give us samples, we will give them to our customers and get feedback for you’. Crown is really good at this and it worked well when the company launched a water-based trim product.” He adds: “We are bringing them together and trying to keep the end user in touch with what they are doing. Our end users like us keeping them aware of developments.” However, Mr Mead does feel this message can sometimes become diluted and he would like suppliers to talk directly to the customer . He, therefore, enables the process by running trade events in the store’s training room. “It means our customers can come and talk to Mr Crown or Mr Little Greene. We then listen in to the conversation too so we’re aware of the answers, aware of the company line on things.” The Meads are certainly pro- active when it comes to developing their business and always have one eye out for an opportunity to enhance their offer. But keeping it fun is central to what they do (“we spend enough time here”, laughs Mr Mead) and, the success of the business relies on their energy and enthusiasm to keep things moving forward. As he says: “We have a vested interest in being pro-active.”

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