Introducing Paul Simmonds
Independent retail is a tough business. Independents are competing with big-box stores, large shopping destinations, and online retailers, which often have hard-to-beat pricing. So how does an independent retailer stand out amongst the crowd? Paul Simmonds seems to have the answer.
Paul is a 35 year veteran of the retail business and the owner of Robert Simmonds Clothing located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada. This tough but kind business man started in the business as a stock boy in a shoe store at 14 years of age, and moved himself up the ladder to success by learning from a number of mentors. Robert Simmonds, named in homage to Paul’s father, opened in 1998 as an upscale men’s clothing store. Sixteen years later, Robert Simmonds offers upscale men’s and women’s, as well as urban style clothing.
What sets Robert Simmonds Clothing apart from the crowd? An over-the-top customer experience. A typical customer interaction involves a customer entering the store, being offered a choice of espresso or scotch, suggestions of proper clothing to fit their style, having a tailor size you properly before leaving the store. The whole experience is very comfortable, you leave as a customer feeling you can trust the people you were working with, and you feel good about the whole experience and your decision to shop at Robert Simmonds.
Paul says that each retail day starts at zero. A retailer can’t rest on the success of yesterday, or the hope for tomorrow. Each day is a fresh start, and giving excellent customer service today will keep customers coming back in the future. Paul sees his staff as his greatest asset and he invests in them by doing things like quarterly meetings, where they bring in speakers like our own Dave Veale. He hires according to attitude and behaviour, and believes if you have that foundation, specific skillsets can be taught.
Paul lives by two adages as it relates to success and failure. First, “the only thing I know for sure is that I don’t know.” Second, “today, if you don’t try it, you’ll never know the answer.” Paul is persistent and knows that when he tries new things with his business, sometimes you fail and other times you succeed. By being petrified to try new things, doesn’t allow for taking on new opportunities. He doesn’t let vulnerability hold him back and he knows that at worst he will be able to learn so much from a failure. He knows that he has be be brave enough to put a kill date on something that isn’t working and to have the courage to let it go.
Looking toward the future, Paul started using the internet to sell and promote Robert Simmonds. In order to keep that customer experience online, he instituted a virtual closet, which catalogues previous purchases, suggests new items to customers, and will do things like find shirts and ties for the new suit you recently bought at Robert Simmonds.
In this episode
We open to soothing on-hold music provided by Robert Simmonds Clothing. Dave tells us about his experience at Robert Simmonds and Paul gives Dave a plug for Vision Coaching. Greg plans to get re-suited at Paul’s store… and to have a scotch. Greg is inspired by Paul’s acceptance of e-commerce as an independent. He sees it as an opportunity as opposed to a challenge, and has discovered a way to bring his in-house customer experience online. Dave’s takeaway is noticing Paul’s ability to see a challenge as an opportunity and not resting on his laurels by constantly evolving his business.