Sound and vision
Our adopted Turning Point retailer, Trafalgar Electronics in Rugby, is on a journey to sell the smart home and is hoping to have its shop refit done by the summer, when it will also rebrand its business. Sean Hannam went along to the store to see how they’re getting on…
It was over a year ago that Ronnie and Lisa Ashley, owners of Trafalgar Electronics in Rugby, went to ERT’s Turning Point summit on the future of electrical retailing and came away feeling that they had no choice but to completely change their business if they were to survive.
They embarked on a journey to renovate their shop, so that it included smart-home and custom-install areas, and to learn about connected products, digital marketing, online and social media.
ERT has been regularly reporting on their progress since September last year, including how they’ve got to grips with smart speakers, and worked with white-goods brand Blomberg and specialist training and marketing agencies T21 and Gekko.
When we spoke to Trafalgar in December, they were looking at rebranding their business to Ashley’s to show that they’re a family company.
This month, we pay them a visit to see how they’re getting on with their mission.
When we walk through the door, we are immediately struck by the new look of the main showroom, which is still in the process of being overhauled.
Where there used to be a selection of white goods, now, against a striking blue wall, on which hangs two cool, music-themed portraits made of old vinyl records – one is of David Bowie and the other the logo of the ska record label 2 Tone – there’s a Sony A1 OLED TV with Chromecast, a Teac turntable and a pair of wireless Kef LS50 speakers.
It’s clear that there’s been some ch-ch-ch-ch-changes since we were here last year, but how are Ronnie and Lisa coping with the madness?
Q: When we visited you late last year, you were talking about rebranding the business. What’s the latest on that?
Lisa Ashley: We’re going ahead. It’s going to tie in with our refit.
Once the shop is all looking nice and new and shiny, we’re going to have a launch, with the rebranding and the refit. We’re going to call the business Ashley’s – we’ve spoken to quite a few people about it. We’re working with a local design and marketing company called Orchard Business Development – we’ve got the new logo done and we’ve got the signs ready. It’s all going to launch at the same time.
Ronnie Ashley: We’ve mentioned the rebranding to people in the trade and some of our customers. We’re hoping to have the refit done in two months’ time – it was supposed to be done by the end of February. All the walls have had to be plastered.
Q: The upstairs area, which is going to be a smart apartment, was a building site last year. Is there any progress on that?
LA: It’s still the same – but we’ve knocked the downstairs bathroom out. There was a leak, due to the bad rain, and we’ve been let down so many times by different tradespeople. We’ve been at the mercy of plasterers and builders.
RA: There will be a smart white-goods area where the bathroom was. All our Siemens appliances will be connected. We’re also in talks with a couple of local kitchen fitters.
LA: We’re going to have a connected, fitted kitchen area and we’ve got more room for white goods in the back, because they take up so much space.
AWE [custom install distributor] came out to take a look at the upstairs area. We’ve also joined Cedia [custom install and smart home trade body].
The front part of the shop will be taken up by a smart display area.
RA: AWE is working on some home-cinema product ideas for us and I’m going to go to Cedia and get some training.
Q: You’ve got a Sony A1 OLED TV on the wall downstairs, and some audio products near it…
RA: We put it up a few weeks ago – we’ve buried all the cables. That area will be like an apartment, with connected products, and we’ll have Alexa and Google Home in our smart-home environment.
We’re looking at Pioneer, which does a speaker that has both – we can’t sell Amazon or Google products and make any money on them.
We’ve connected all the lighting in our shop to Bosch’s smart-home system – we don’t have to turn them on and off anymore. We’re selling Bosch’s smart-home products and we’ll be telling Alexa to talk to them in the shop. People will know what they do.
Q: Last year, ERT introduced you to local vinyl record shop Just for the Record, which is round the corner from you. We know you’re keen to work together…
RA: I’ve done some work for them and we’re in talks about bringing the record shop into our store – I’ve planted the seed, but I don’t know if it will happen. The owner is interested. It would be pretty cool.
Q: It’s been 15 months since our Turning Point summit got you thinking about changing your business? How’s the journey been so far?
RA: Business has been tough – the shop fit couldn’t have come at a better time. We had to put a sign in the window to tell people we’re not closing down, because it looks like a building site. We can’t wait for the launch.
Q: Is it worth all the grief and the headaches?
RA: I reckon it will be.
LA: Yes – that’s what I keep telling myself, when I’m clearing up plaster dust. We had to do it.
RA: It’s exciting – we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s taking so long to get there.
‘‘The training was good – very informative’…’
Matt Cresswell-Peters, Trafalgar’s sales adviser, sat in on some training from specialist company T21 and was recently mystery-shopped by them…
Q: How did you find the T21 sales training course?
Matt Cresswell-Peters: It was good – it was informative, it covered loads of different bases and it expanded on what I already knew.
I tend to focus on white goods, but I do a lot on brown goods as well – I’m learning. I like to be an all-rounder – if I’m in the shop on my own, it’s no good if I’m not able to sell a TV.
Q: You were mystery-shopped. How was it?
MC: I had an inkling – one of the questions the customer asked made me think that I could be being mystery-shopped, but I didn’t treat him any differently from anyone else who walks through the door.
It’s what I do every day. It was great and good for my self-esteem. I scored pretty highly and the feedback from T21 was constructive.