Middletons Shrewsbury 2

Ricky Towler Middletons image

Earlier in the year, THIIS caught up with Middletons’ Director Ricky Towler to learn more about how the rapidly expanding retailer approaches opening new stores in new locations, as well as his thoughts on how the mobility industry is evolving.

Since the ‘Trade Talk,’ the growing mobility retailer has gone on to open a string of new stores across the South West, West Midlands and moving as far as the East Midlands over a busy summer of store openings. Recently, the company also announced its plans to launch a new store in Exeter this October, further increasing its presence in the busy South West region of the country.

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THIIS: How is the store rollout coming along?

Ricky: “All is going to plan, more or less. We have a store rollout strategy so we know when we want to launch new stores each year and we are ahead of the game as far as that is concerned. It is running very smoothly – touch wood!”

THIIS: What do you think is key for opening a new store in a new area?

Ricky: “That’s a tricky one as I wouldn’t want to give too much away! I would say that you need to have a slick marketing plan and make sure you have the right mix of marketing. We’ve found it is a bit of chemistry lab over the years, testing to see what works and what doesn’t.

“Having been in the industry for 10 years, we have a pretty good understanding of what ingredients are needed to bake a perfect cake. Getting your marketing and PR right so people know that you are there and raising the awareness is essential when launching a new store in a new location.

“Importantly, for us, it’s not just about raising awareness that a new shop has opened but also making sure people understands what Middletons stands for. Just having a name doesn’t mean much so we work on making sure that people understand what the name represents, what we sell and who we are.

“Then there is the look of the store itself. The store has to be laid out correctly and the customer journey needs to be correct to make sure the retail experience is up to scratch, particularly in this day and age when the high street is taking an absolute battering.

“So many big high street brands are in trouble, fizzling out and in need of investment because of a whole host of different reasons. For those operating in this environment, you need to be on you’re A-game and aware of competitors, as well as keeping an eye on the likes of Amazon and considering how to respond in a retail market which is shifting online.

“This means focusing not only on the physical retail experience but on your online presence and ensuring the whole offer is one.”

THIIS: You mention the high street is taking a battering, so why is Middletons pushing ahead with a strategy of launching new stores?

Ricky: “For us, it is about not making the same mistakes as other retailers. If you look at retail, not just in mobility but in various sectors, I think it is fair to say that retail has become bland. Many retailers have not upped their game or moved with the times.

“The market constantly moves and evolves and for retailers that do not move with it, then, inevitably, they will be left behind and having to play catch up.”

THIIS: What would you say has been the biggest shift you have seen in the industry?

Ricky: “I think a lot of retailers truly did not appreciate the significance of the internet.

“With Middletons and particularly with Oak Tree Mobility, our advertising when we first started was very much focused on offline channels like national newspapers. I can’t even remember really focussing on the website because we never really had one; it was fairly insignificant back then.

“Today, that would be unthinkable. We are all over online and work with a very good PPC agency. We are constantly refining our content and our images, as well as ensuring our SEO is bang up to date and making sure we have a good social media presence.

“So digital is the biggest shift. Those who do not get on it in a big way will miss the bus.”

THIIS: What would you say is helping Middletons find success in the mobility industry?

Ricky: “On top having the right marketing, we have been able to move with the times and give customers what they want. It about being able to get into the psyche of the customer and make sure we adapt to cater to the needs of today’s customer.”

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