Over the weekend JOHNSON’S OF HEDON, D.I.Y. and Homecare Centre, celebrated 45 years of trading in the town. During that period the business has been owned by the same family. On Saturday, it was a delight to meet the third generation of that family to run the shop, Lucy Brooke, who explained a little bit about the history of the business and its success.
The business was started as a hardware shop in 1969 by George Brooke who managed it alongside his son Mike Brooke. Originally based on New Road, Johnson’s of Hedon continued in business for 31 years until tragically – as many long-term residents will remember – the shop burnt down in January 2000.
Lucy, George’s granddaughter takes up the story: “It was a very difficult time following the fire. After losing the shop, which we had owned, we decided to rent ‘temporarily’ the premises on Johnson’s Corner. Now, 14 years later, we’re still here! But business is going well.”
Lucy says that the success of the shop derives from being fair to its local community of customers. In an age when people can very easily opt to shop elsewhere, the shop has had to work hard to find the best possible deals and prices for its customers. In Hedon there’s no ‘captive audience’ who have to buy from you, only ‘savvy shoppers’.
Like most businesses, trading has been tough in recent years, and the shop has had to adapt as Lucy explained. “Dad (Mike) said we’d never open on a Sunday. But we’ve had no choice – we’re open 10am – 2pm’ish on a Sunday now, but it serves our customers’ needs. We’ve also expanded our range of goods.” She points to the new kitchen and cookware display; the range is available in other well-known stores on the high street – the “big boys” as Lucy calls them – but the mark-up charged is liable to be much greater than here in Hedon.
The shop has also invested more time and effort in its window displays in the last year, something which has been noticed by passers-by who are now more likely to stop, look and shop. The next display planned is a picnic-themed one for summer, followed by a wedding cake theme. It’s obvious that Lucy is quite pleased with the success of the window displays and she says she enjoys the more creative aspects of work.
Lucy is currently managing the store while her father Mike takes some time off to recuperate from a hip-replacement operation, and retail management is obviously in her blood, but she did tell us: “I didn’t set out to be a shopkeeper! It was another of those temporary decisions made. I offered to help out at the shop for a few hours, and here I am 17 years later!” While managing the shop incurs long hours and occupies her time, Lucy actually trained to be an archaeologist and as hinted earlier, she has an artistic streak with a flair for photography and an eye for garden design.
Johnson’s of Hedon is already a local success story, that success is proven over 45 years in Hedon. The Brooke family themselves have a ‘hardware heritage’ going back 70 years! But for all that history, skill, expertise and imagination, it’s the customer experience in the shop that counts, and based on my visit to the shop I can’t help but agree or put it better than the statement on the Johnson’s of Hedon website:
“Our success is hugely attributable to the fact that our entire ethos is based on being a family run business that’s at the heart of the community we serve. Indeed as you’ll discover, visitors to our store are greeted and treated more like friends than just customers.”