When Mr Peter Crisp embarked on his venture in 1959, his edict for success was sheer hard work and devotion to business, combined with range and depth of stock and personal informed service from well trained staff.
Over the past forty years Mr Crisp transformed a small agricultural ironmongers into a store of fifteen departments, with a reputation for excellence in merchandise and customer service.
This is Peter Crisp's story in his own words, taken from the Northamptonshire Life magazine on achieving The National Retailer of the Year Award in 1983.
"I always have been ambitious and enjoy a challenge and making decisions, and most of all, being my own boss. I left school at the age of 14 and had the choice of working in a seed or an ironmonger's shop. I chose the ironmonger, S C Averill and Son of Evesham.
I began my career as an errand boy at 7s/6d (37½p) a week. In November 1940. I was indentured as an apprentice to learn the art and trade of an ironmonger, earning 12s/6d in the first year, 15s in the second, £1 in the third and £1:5s in the fourth. But I did not complete my fourth year as I was called into the forces at the end of 1943. When I was demobbed in 1947, I was asked to return and complete my apprenticeship and started back at £2:5s per week. The business had been purchased by W F Bailey, members of the wallpaper manufacturers.
In 1954 I moved to Hereford as shop manager of Philip Morris and in 1955 I was promoted to General Manager. In the same year I was made a fellow of the National Institute of Hardware. In 1957 I made the most important and rewarding decision of my life. I got married to Rosemary, who must share equally with my success. She has always supported me 100 per cent and without her help and guidance we would not be where we are today. In 1959, after visiting over 21 businesses and writing more than 300 letters, we eventually decided to purchase the business of Fairey Bros. at Rushden, with a turnover of £12,000. We aimed at increasing the turnover to £20,000 and then selling and moving on. We reached our target in the first year and decided to stay a little longer.
The first Christmas we took £94 on Christmas Eve and the first time we reached £100 in one day we opened a bottle of beer. Success has come by hard work and complete devotion to the business. Many aspects contribute to our success, but the two I have chosen are customer service and range available and depth of stock. We have always, from the beginning, been up market in quality and good service. A shop and business is only as good as its staff and they must be well trained and experienced if you are going to succeed. A friendly, personal, pleasant shopping environment has been a great advantage over the supermarkets and discount stores. Most customers, even those in a hurry respond to a friendly greeting and (most important) a smile.
The minute the customer walks in the door, he or she must know what kind of store it is and staff must always remember that it is their job and livelihood to make the customer feel that he or she is wanted. The customer is always right and they must not forget it."