Bit brass monkeys out there this morning wasn’t it? Don’t believe *all* of the TRAFFIC CHAOS headlines about Britain’s Oldest Recorded, but perhaps do believe what you’ve may have been reading of late all about Jacks Famous Supplies.
The bleak mid-winter can bring about many woes, but hopefully it can be seen as an opportunity to try and spread some much need hyperlocal love towards one of the most famous and much loved stores in Sunny Colch.
Yep – Jacks is struggling.
And like the situation of some twelve months ago, it is all the more confusing to try and see how the Colchester landmark is facing a make or break situation with Britain’s Oldest Recorded freezing over.
Need a new pair of gloves? Boots? A sledge even?
All of the above should be on your shopping list with Jacks the first port of call.
Perhaps it is *because* of the bleak mid-winter that so much woe is coming towards the hardware store. Shopping ‘aint a great deal of fun with slush and freezing temperatures. Meanwhile the clickety-click of a mouse, and some deep-pocketed online warehouse is tempting you away from the Colchester economy.
But first, some facts.
Dave Buxton from Jacks very kindly contacted The Chronic and asked for some support. We don’t take ads, but we do deal in unashamed FREE plugs for a store that you would surely rather see within Sunny Colch than without.
What is the exact current state of the business?
“I won’t answer this one, but the simple answer is critical! But when you look at some of the national retailers that have closed down recently, and throughout the recession – our predicament isn’t unique.”
It’s far from crocodile tears, but a similar story was being reported almost twelve months ago. Is the current economic climate any different?
“It’s probably about 15% down on last year, but this follows a number of years of decline.”
If we could bash out blog posts explaining the rise and fall of post-modern retail [Oooh] then we wouldn’t be scraping around for business ourselves. How does Dave explain the current trading decline?
“We struggle to answer this one – I guess it must be online trading and convenience. Where once we were the place to come to get a range of products not available elsewhere, now many places – from Tesco, to Argos, and Poundland – sell similar products. Sometimes these places are more convenient, and rather than making a special trip into town to come into Jacks people pick it up at the same time as there other shopping – even though we are likely to be cheaper!”
You can’t deny that the shop front along St Nicholas Street is a Sunny Colch icon. The Castle, St Botolph’s and Jumbo – Jacks is up there amongst them. But are there any plans to perhaps transfer trade online?
If you can’t beat ‘em…
“If we survive the next few weeks, we will try and trade more online for the products where we are cheaper – for example the Hunter Wellingtons, where we are the cheapest in the UK. But online isn’t going to be the immediate solution for us – its not that easy. For example on amazon where we’re the cheapest, you’d expect us to be at the top of the list when people search, but we’re not! The top stores are the ones with the best customer feedback – and it’s going to take time to build this for us!”
There’s an online / offline message to be learnt there. Trust in the real world doesn’t always match up on the modern interweb…
And so what is the appeal of Jacks? Why is the name and identity so strong in Sunny Colch?
“Because we are a unique store, and generations of people have grown up with us as a focal point in the town – ever present when other large independent stores have closed.”
And the immediate support that the town can give you in the next couple of weeks?
It’s all about… SPENDING?
“What we want people to do is to turn this affection into sales right now, and in return we will spend the early part of next year improving the store to ensure it has long term appeal and we’re not in this position in another twelve months.”
And so pretty grim reading, but ending with a touch of optimism. You almost hope that the Brrr weather of Wednesday morning will continue for the next two months causing a run on wellies in Sunny Colch.
Hang on in there, folks.