I have a story for you today that is so packed full of business lessons that it’s like a well made eccles cake.

I’m heading down to the coast this weekend. We’ve got a house in Southwold in Suffolk and we’ve been going for the last 10 years. It’s an odd little place, very quiet until the holidays come and then it’s rammed with folks there to enjoy the sea air and spend their money in the puzzling array of shops that the town holds.

But it is two shops in particular that always get me thinking, both bakers.  

Southwold has had a bakery for as long as I have been there and well before that too. It’s nice enough. It sells what bakers sell and for plenty of years it has done alright. Each time I visit I make the morning trundle along the sea front and into the warm interior to buy a bag load of pastries for breakfast.

Or at least I did until about 3 years ago when an impostor arrived.

Despite the town already having a bakery (and 2 supermarkets that also sell bread) someone decided they wanted a piece of the pie and set up the 2 Magpies Bakery. Cue lots of local people chortling into their pints talking about the amount of money they would lose because the town already had a bakery.

Even the existing bakery itself seem unconcerned, they did nothing to secure their own customer base and just sat and waited to see what would happen…

And of course what actually happened was the new bakery cleaned up. They offered something new and absolute perfect for the market and as such now even the locals head to 2 Magpies before they head to the long existing bakery.

These places are literally 20 yards apart across a road. Yet one is always rammed busy and the other has misted up windows because the door never opens.

A few months ago when I was there, Storm Katie wreaked her wet and miserable havoc, people queued outside the new bakery waiting for it to open despite the fact that less that a cricket pitch away there was a nice warm haven that sold what they wanted to buy and at a fraction of the price.

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In the old days I bought a croissant for 60 pence, now I happily pay £2.10 for the privilege and wait 10 minutes to be served. Yes the croissants are really nice and very big (although when you are paying for size in a croissant you are just paying for more air!) but the new place has done nothing that the existing guys couldn’t have done (or still do). But they’ve done nothing and their business is really suffering.

So let’s talk business lessons, well where to start? choose your takeaway.  

The fact that price doesn’t matter or that there is no such thing as customer loyalty (especially from those who have been with you forever) or maybe that every market can have a new player and they can “do the impossible”. Or maybe that everything – even flour and water – can be done differently.

The more you think about it the more lessons there are.

But just think about your own business. Could you be the new bakery? Are you the old bakery? Either way what you know, or you think you know in business very rarely holds water. You can never sit back, and as soon as you do, your best customers are queuing in the rain for your competitors trying not to make eye contact with you.

I’m looking forward to heading down again in a few days, maybe it’s all changed and the “old” bakery have upped their game…and the size of their croissants…I’ll let you know!

Being a member of Marketing Jumpleads has been a really good experience.  I’ve met some cool people, doing some interesting things and most importantly it has helped me put ideas into action and get results, which is the name of the game.

Marc Wileman

Dragon's Den Winner and CEO, Sublime Science

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