Interview with independent retailer Kevin Clarkson, of Paul Stride in York
Paul Stride is a popular independent nursery retailer based in York and run by Kevin and Philippa Clarkson. This week, Jonathan from Inglesina enjoyed a Zoom call with Kevin to find out more about the business, what he enjoys most about being part of the nursery retail industry – and what advice he would give to any independent nursery retailers setting up. Here’s what Kevin had to say:
Tell us a bit about you and your store – how long has Paul Stride been trading and why did you decide to set up?
“The business was set up in 1982 by my family although I didn’t join until 1984. I was between jobs and said I’d help out for 3 weeks – I just never left! It started as an out of town department store, selling shoes, clothes, lingerie, wool, school uniform and nursery goods. We focused purely on nursery after 2000 and moved to our current location in 2005, just outside York city centre.”
What do you stand for and what do you feel you do differently to other stores?
“We probably don’t actually do anything very different to other independent stores – we just enjoy helping our customers and we aim to make it a pleasurable experience. We like being able to demonstrate products and think it’s crucial that people can touch and feel them. We’re good value, no bells or whistles – just an honest retailer and hopefully our customers value that.”
What do you love about being in the baby business?
“Having a baby is one of the few highlights that someone will have in their life and we hope to make that journey easier. I enjoy seeing expectant mums – in fact, we’re now starting to see expectant grandparents who we helped as new parents! It’s great to witness people on this journey of life.”
What do you look for from brands you stock?
“There’s a fine line between what you like – versus what will actually sell. I always try to choose the best products – and sometimes that’s hard – especially where ethics and morals come into play. It’s important to be happy with the products you sell. We have a wide selection but I stick to the better brands – rather than budget – and I look for reliability. If a brand can’t back up its product, it causes a problem for my customers and for my reputation.”
What more could brands do to support independent retailers?
“Some brands seem to be plotting their own course by going online only and bypassing independent retailers but I think it’s a short term gain for them in the end. People want to get advice, to feel and try out a product – and even the best website won’t replace that shop floor experience. To create new brands and to launch new products, you need a shop floor and if that’s not possible, you need to look after the retailers.”
With the challenges of Brexit & Covid, how are you feeling about the year ahead?
“It was certainly a double whammy. Since Brexit, we’ve got the double shipping tariffs – say, from China to Europe, then from Europe to the UK. There’s increased paperwork and inefficient carriers – caused by problems with supply – we’ve felt it ourselves. Covid has also been hard; as a trade we’ve all been shut for more than 6 months in the past year. We’re not out of the woods yet but I have every confidence that over the next year things might swing back the right way – people wanted to experience the shop floor again, to demo the products.”
What 3 top tips would you give any independent nursery retailer setting up?
You need a thick skin!
Value the service you give – helping people choose the right product goes a long way. It gives them a more informed decision.
If you don’t know the answer – don’t blag it!
What exciting plans do you have for the year ahead?
“On a purely personal note, after the past 12 months we’re looking forward to our eldest son getting married in September, seeing our younger son graduate – and spending time with our grandchildren!”