Paul's Cotswold Outdoor Journey
Find out why Paul loves being a Cotswold Outdoor Expert.
How did you come to work for Cotswold Outdoor?
“I had an opportunity to move across from a different outdoor retail company when one day, an old manager of mine rang me up and said, “do you fancy a job?”. That was nearly 20 years ago now and I can’t think of any better place to come. You don’t stay with one company for 20 years if they don’t look after you. You might have noticed I like my kit: well there’s nothing I’d want or need that I can’t buy in our stores.”
What’s your role?
“My role within Cotswold Outdoor is store manager of our Bakewell store. The smallest store but probably the best! I have a great team, wonderful customers, they’re fantastic. They make it a pleasure.”
What’s the best part about your job?
“I love finding out how people’s trips have gone. When customers come back in, and they remember your name, they ask you how your trip went, and you ask how their trip went. It’s that relationship we’ve got, I know a lot of customers by their first name and they know everybody in the staff. We’re a community but we also get the tourists, and I’m sure they go back to their local stores and say, “we’ve been to that Bakewell store, it was great”.”
Why do you think that places like Cotswold Outdoor are important?
“I think it’s important for customers to know we’re a place they can come, because I don’t think there’s any egos. I’ve been to other outdoor stores where if you’re not doing something super hardcore, they’re not interested. We as a business are interested, it’s honest advice for what you need, we won’t just sell you anything. We’ve stopped people from buying the wrong thing in the past and they’ve come back and bought more, because we’ve given honest, genuine advice, and that’s why people come to Cotswold Outdoor. And I hear that from people who’ve shopped at Leicester, at Keswick, at Betws-y-Coed. So, it’s not just my store, it’s all the stores.”
What would you say are your specific areas of expertise?
“My areas of expertise are camping, walking, footwear fitting – anything apart from GPS is my forte really!”
What does it mean to you to be able to share your passion and experience with customers?
“To share and enthuse with a customer about a trip they’re going on is really important, because they’re buzzing when they hear, “oh, you’re doing that, it’s fantastic”, and if they want advice, you can give them little bits of feedback, like, “take one of these because they never have one”, or “take this piece of kit because it was invaluable when I went”. And they just want to hear that we know what they’re going to go through.”
Why is having the right knowledge and experience so important?
“What the Peak District can throw at you - it can be sun, rain, sleet, hail or anything else – so you need something that’s going to work in that environment! If a customer has a terrible time, they’ll never go back, or it’ll put them off. But if they’re warm, dry, comfortable and they can walk up something, they’ll do it again. It doesn’t have to be bells and whistles as long as it works. You don’t always have to buy £500 of waterproofs, you can buy £100 of waterproofs and they’ll still do the job.”
Why is it important to have the right footwear?
“A well-fitting pair of footwear is super important to help you enjoy what you’re going out to do. In our shop, we get people queuing in the shop waiting for us to fit their footwear; we have three boot fitters on a Saturday and they are constantly busy because of the reputation we’ve got as boot fitters. Each of the brands has different characteristics, and so do customers, so we have to fit to the foot we have in front of us. If you can’t walk, you’re not going anywhere, so you need to get a well-fitting pair of boots.”
How does your expertise then benefit your own outdoor experience?
“I think my experience that I’ve gained over the years has basically aided me in all my kit decisions. I have a house full of the world’s finest outdoor kit for any discipline that I want to go and choose. I’ve got so much kit I could kit a shop out, but everything works for its own environment. I’ve got summer rock, summer Alps, winter Alps, ice climbing - every discipline is covered. If I’m going camping on my own, it’s a lightweight tent; if I’m going with the two kids it’s a 3-person tent; if I’m going with the group it’s a big family tent with all the mod cons because Astrid doesn’t want to lie on the floor and get changed. So we’ve literally got carpets, beds, the works and we all enjoy that. It’s a learning curve: you make mistakes down the road and you go ,“why did I buy that?”, but that’s a lesson that I can pass on to customers and can say, “it’s ok, but this is £30 more and is an awful lot better”. We offer them the best thing for their uses based on our own experiences.”
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