Training to Trade

Today I went to my favourite running store, Moti in Bristol. I get most of my kit here and although I came out with the super padded socks I needed, I also came out with confirmation about how a start-up business should go about developing a series of small retail shops. Having talked with the owner Shaun, I think Moti gets it just about right for a small business with limited resources. In fact I think its the very lack of too much resource that makes their approach work. There are lessons here for others.

No.1 – They need a physical store. Their service is one on one. They fit your training shoes, finding the best products for the way you run and for where you run. It’s a point of difference from the usual high street chains. It takes time to get this right and you never feel rushed. This is science and customers clearly enjoy this way of being sold to.

No.2 – They steer clear of the typical high street locations, at least in Bristol – They have a prominent site in between some of the main shopping/leisure streets in old Bristol. It means they get a lot of passing trade and are continually discovered by new customers. They will pay much less rent for this unit compared to sites a half mile in each direction.

No.3 – They have not spent a fortune on their shop fit – Over the last couple of years the business has gradually grown into its space. Subtle changes over time show how the company is continually figuring out what’s best. These are small incremental changes. Prototyping on the move if you like.

They have all the basics in place. Three shops in three cities with a common way of delivering products in a unique way. Whatever they do next it should be step by step. They are developing their retail footprint over time. They are learning about how their business uses its buildings and continually try and test new ideas on a small scale. You can create magic in print and online, and really get the look and feel of your business right. Its much harder with buildings.

Moti realise you don’t compete with international highstreet brands by throwing a load of money at the problem. Why would you want to be like the corporations anyway. Its these companies that are responsible for the uniformity of our high streets. The kind of places where truly local businesses like Moti struggle to get a foothold.

Moti have chosen to do things the other way round. They are building a community of engaged athletes and passionate customers. As I discussed with Shaun its what they are doing, not always what they are saying that is important. Their shops are a backdrop to their unique way of delivering products. Its this that people buy into, and its as important as any branding you can do.

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