Dominic Batstone

Software Development, Process Improvement and Career Progression.


Dominic Batstone

What's really wrong with Britain's High Streets?

1st January 2019

There's been a lot of media frenzy in recent weeks and months about how the Internet is killing the High street.

Amazon, what bastards right?

Well, they don't pay much tax, but when our tax system is so ridiculous you cant really blame them for that. No. It's not Amazon or anyone else’s faulty, it's their own incompetence.


Wilko has a shop in Farnborough which is almost next to the cinema. Instead of paying about a billion pounds for a bag of sweets, I'll pop into Wilko to grab some Pick'n'Mix or something similar. Most times in the past I have been disappointed by lack of pick'n'mix lids, lack of pick'n'mix cups or general lack of any sweetie related stock.
I like Wilko and want them to survive, so complained to them in August via Resolver. They replied with

Sorry to hear your recent visit to store wasn’t a positive experience, we have passed your comments onto the Farnborough Store Manager to investigate.

So here we are in December. How are they faring?

mmm, Well stocked!
Empty Shelves at Wilko 1 lots to choose from.
Empty shelves at Wilko 2 I really fancy a drink
No drinks at Wilko Nothing enticing near the tills
Empty ends of aisles Great value Christmas Tree without roots a few days AFTER Christmas!
Christmas trees after Christmas

This is made even worse by the fact I have discovered the kids package at the cinema where you can get sweets, a drink and a chocolate bar for £2.99. I now have NO reason to visit Wilko, ever. They sell all sorts of items (including paint & DIY) but I'd probably only buy it on the spur of the moment, most likely when buying sweets. I literally have no reason to be their customer any more.


I've recently been listening to Peter Drucker’s 5 Most Important Questions and the first is to "What is our mission". I would think it is something like "to sell stuff". That is what shops are for, and they are failing.


It's not just Wilko. I wanted to buy a shoe rack, so thought I'd give Argos a try. On my phone I found a nice rack and added it to the cart. It then offered me a "back of the door shoe hangar". Great! I'll have that and added it to the cart too. I clicked the cart icon to checkout. Runtime error.
Argos runtime error I tried it on my desktop. Same.
I phoned them up and at first the lady didn't believe me. She tried. You guessed it. Error!
While I was on the phone, I ordered a paid for a shoe rack from Amazon.

You had one job

you had one job image

Both Argos & Wilko had one job; to sell me stuff. They failed. Wilko lost my custom to the cinema and Argos lost my custom to Amazon.

Management Lessons

The managers and ordering process have failed. Their shop floor staff have failed by not raising these issues. Do they not have any pride in their store? Do they not want their company to succeed?

It is not Amazon that are killing these shops. It is themselves. You see it time and time again. Next time you visit any shop, look for these issues. Surely these are simple issues to resolve, but as I have seen from Wilko they just cannot be bothered and as a result will continue to lose custom to other companies that do want them.

How long can these dinosuars survive?

Update 2nd Jan 2019

Since I wrote the article around midnight on new years eve (yes, mildly sad) I didn't do a ton of actual research into Wilko's situation. I wrote the piece as more of a personal observation. Doing some Googling the next day reveals that they faced a £65 million loss including the interesting quote;

Wilko, which has 415-strong store estate, said profit had been “significantly impacted by a high level of lost stock".

What is "lost stock". Is this why the shelves are bare?

My first student job (after a paper round) was at Homebase. Managers used to go round and check what the computer thought the shop had and changed values accordingly so the correct ordering could happen. They could also manually order more or less depending on conditions (e.g. nice weather means more BBQ sales). It wasn't rocket science and this was 25 years ago(ish).

Meanwhile, the article by Insider Media has the quote;

Chief operating officer Sean Toal said: "Despite the tough trading environment, we have grown the business and won more customers as they are attracted to the quality and value of our offer."

Ah, the old "Tough trading environment". How often do we hear this? It doesn't matter what the industry is. If the numbers make you look bad, it's "tough trading conditions". It reminds me a bit of companies that get hacked and they always say "we take your security seriously". Everyone can see straight through it, so why say it?

If there is a problem with "lost stock", that doesn't mean having empty shelves. Put something on them, anything, rather than nothing. Paint brushes, kids crayons, shampoo. Wilko is a jack of all trades (like Woolworths). Fill those gaps.

Blaming "trading conditions" is just a way to hide behind excuses and not take any responsibility.

Culture & Security focussed developer finding ways to increase happiness and efficiency so we can all work easier with better quality code, relationships and lives.

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