The new face of H J Knee

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Wiltshire-based independent retailer H J Knee reports that its new electrical superstore in Trowbridge has attracted new customers from a wide area.

H J Knee was founded by Henry John Knee and the business remains family-run; Jonathan Knee, a great, great grandson of the founder, is the company’s general manager. “We are really pleased with our new store and it’s been busy everyday since we opened,” he says.

The new store has 6,500 square feet of shop space. Previously, the retailer sold electricals in its department store in the town, from a 2,500 square area, although the aisles were narrow and the department was somewhat stretched out.

Jonathan says: “We have created a modern retail environment and we have attracted customers from a wider area, and, of course, we have retained our existing customers.”

Less is more

Unlike the department store, where some products were housed in display cabinets, the new store is much more open. Jonathan explains: “Everything’s open – we can see the customer and the customer can see us; but more importantly, the customer can see the merchandise.

“The products are selling themselves more as customers now have the opportunity to look and feel them, which is, obviously, less staff intensive, and it’s great for them to have that opportunity.”

Although Jonathan admits it’s early days in the life of the new store – it was officially opened on 18 March – but he says that initial sales are three times greater than those achieved in the electricals area of the department store.

Another development with the opening of the new store has seen it become a seven-days-a-week business.

Recently, H J Knee joined Combined Independents (Holdings) from the Sirius Buying Group and the new store features the Euronics logo on its fascia, alongside the H J Knee name. Jonathan comments: “Joining Euronics has helped our business without a shadow of a doubt and we’ve benefited from CIH’s buying power and the better margin that we can attain.”

Jonathan pays tribute to Ian Vidler, the manager of the electrical superstore, who has been the driving force behind the new store concept, an idea he came up with 18 months ago.

“Ian is one of the best managers and buyers we’ve got here; he can hammer a price down and get the deals,” Jonathan says. “In three years, Ian has pretty much hit every target I have ever set him.”

Designing the store

A great deal of work took place on the building, which is owned by the Knee family, but was empty prior to the new electrical superstore opening. For the shopfit, the company turned to Resolution Interiors, one of CIH’s preferred suppliers.

Dave Stickland, sales manager at Resolution Interiors, says: “The key reasons to fit a shop out like this, apart from the obvious such as image, is to increase sales and profitability, as well as reduce staff costs and raise the speed of stock turnover.

“H J Knee has already achieved significant sales uplift in its first few days of trading. Visibility lines throughout the store, together with clean merchandising, enables staff to see exactly what is going on, so there’s a far greater awareness of theft. The family has not been shy to leave space proving the old adage that less is more; there’s fast customer flow and the ability on the walk-through to highlight manager specials and offers.

“The store brings together everything from the 21st century and meshes it beautifully with the 19th century history of the H J Knee business – with black and white, larger than life graphics that reflect the heritage, values and service of the company.”

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