A successful Bicester-based bookstore is being taken to the next level thanks to the support of a retail business mentor programme funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS).
Nigel and Caroline French were already punching well above their weight with a niche in selling signed copies of books, and high profile book signings like that of Sol Campbell, but they felt that they still needed specialist support and guidance in particular areas of their business. That support came in the shape of retail business mentor Rowland Gee thanks to funding secured by the National Skills Academy for Retail (NSAR) and made available by the Skills Funding Agency.
Before he had even visited us, Rowland’s wisdom and experience had made a massive difference … thanks to an amazing business tool Rowland has developed we could see clearly what we needed to change
Nigel enthuses, “We completely lucked out when we found Rowland; I knew exactly who Rowland was through reading about him in the media but didn’t ever expect I would be able to access the support of someone with such a senior background.”
Rowland, a retail leader and founder of the retail executive network Grey4Gold would normally have been far too expensive for a small business like Cole’s to afford but the NSAR funding made all the difference and enabled Nigel to access one–to-one support from a senior figure from the retail industry and it has made an immediate impact.
“Before he had even visited us, Rowland’s wisdom and experience had made a massive difference,” Nigel explains, “I shared with him the specific areas where we felt we needed his guidance and a couple of emails later and thanks to an amazing business tool Rowland has developed we could see clearly what we needed to change.”
“The information that we needed had always been there but we had just been looking at it the wrong way,” Nigel tells me. Rowland’s first visit to the store just confirmed Nigel’s original view. Rowland’s support focused on three specific areas where Nigel recognised he needed assistance, stock management, visual merchandising and how to develop their online business. In all three areas, Rowland’s support has made an impact.
“His depth of knowledge and experience were just amazing even to the extent of being able to advise us on the specific bulbs we should order to maximise the impact of our book displays.”
Nigel is very passionate not only about his own business that of all small retail businesses: “As a retailer your commitment is absolute, you have to manage stock, staff, landlords, local authorities and you feel you are all on your own. If you want to encourage more entrepreneurs there has to be a support package of skills and training from retail specialists such as the NSAR and Grey4Gold.”
Such is the impact Nigel’s experience has had to date he plans to continue to work with Rowland and to look at other areas of skills and training he can access beyond this initial support programme as he continues to grow his business.
To find out more about business mentors as well as a wider range of courses and services on offer please visit the website www.nsaforretail.com