Since 1985 the A1 Motabitz store in Ferndown, Dorset has enjoyed an ever-growing reputation with local residents. Most of the sales staff are on first name terms with customers, and every inch of shelf space is used to its maximum sales potential. Perhaps that was part of the reason why this year Motabitz was named CAT Magazineâ€™s Retailer of the Year.
The award sits proudly on the sales counter, as Co-director Glenn Mason explains the history of the business: â€œWeâ€™re going to be 27 years old next month. Both my Co-Director and I were previously employed by another retail group in this area, and when that went into administration we bought this store. We thought that by the next year we would be millionaires!â€
While his millionaire dream might not have happened yet, Mason is still chasing it by constantly revising his storeâ€™s offering. Like a lot of modern retailers Motabitz has had to diversify to keep up with consumer demands: â€œCycles now represent about 30 percent of our business, itâ€™s a product that has added value. Thatâ€™s something retailers can offer, all the extra services like fitting and mixing paints and good customer service. You canâ€™t buy that from the internet. With good service the price of the product becomes less of a barrier for customers.â€
Mason says online retailing has become a serious threat to local business: â€œWeâ€™ve almost got to the point where weâ€™ve flooded the online sector, there are so many businesses selling products online and theyâ€™re all fighting each other for business. The costs of selling online are increasing. The answer for smaller retailers is to provide that extra service and the extra value for customers in your store.â€
Another problem Mason sees is where smaller businesses try to â€˜go it aloneâ€™ in the retail sector. For Motabitz the buying power that comes with the A1 group was hard to resist: â€œWe joined A1 because we wanted to make use of the all the marketing materials they could provide us with. There was of course some change that went with that; we changed some suppliers for example because they were preferential suppliers for A1.
â€œI genuinely cannot see how independent retailers can maximise their margins in this competitive marketplace without belonging to a larger group. Groups arenâ€™t going to go away, theyâ€™re going to get bigger and eventually threaten smaller businesses.â€
Mason sees another problem for small retailers: â€œA big problem is that lots of the companies that these retailers want to buy from are not geared up to serve small businesses any more, theyâ€™re realising what little spend they get from independent businesses isnâ€™t justified, and they prefer dealing with larger groups.
Mason says if that trend continues the aftermarket could reform into a â€˜supermarket scenarioâ€™ where the market is dominated by a small number of large brands.
There is still hope for smaller retailers however, and Mason says that in order to survive those businesses need to adapt. Part of that adaptation comes in knowing the local market: â€œCustomer focus groups have worked really well for us. The idea for them was born out of some studying I was doing at the time, and it was part of the project that I wanted to look at what gave customers satisfaction.
â€œWhat weâ€™ve got from it as a business is finding out what the local customers value and what they want â€“ evidently what they want is the local knowledge that comes with the store.â€
That local knowledge comes from the efforts of Masonâ€™s sales team, he believes winning the CAT award in part honours their efforts: â€œThe biggest benefit was for the sales staff, they were so chuffed to see their efforts rewarded and their hard work recognized by the industry. I hope the award will help to bring extra customers in, but we need to use it in the right way with branding and such.
Mason has been quick off the mark in using his new accolade, Motabitz has just agreed a deal with Haynes to supply bespoke branding featuring the CAT award for his business. With marketing power like that behind him, the reputation of Motabitz can only continue to rise.