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The mindset, the baby shop, and the incredible journey to £70 million 1977 to 2011

1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011

From mixing concrete to selling prams

It was January 1977 and like most people we set our New Year’s resolutions. I do think we all get confused with resolutions and goals, anyway one of Marilyn’s goals that year was to stop working in the evenings, she had been doing the accounts for what was now our busy Property Maintenance business named Wrightway Decorating and Property Maintenance, she would also spend her evenings’ hairdressing to get a bit of extra money.

Selling turf over the phone or for that matter anything that we came across, and of course cooking, cleaning, and looking after Elaine our 5-year-old daughter and that was after doing a full day on the building sites, things just had to change, but at that time we didn’t realize just how much they would, but as we all know everything starts with a thought in our minds.

1977

Rainbow Warehouse

The solution would be to purchase a two-up two-down terraced house which was For Sale, it could be turned into an office, then no sooner had we agreed to purchase the property Marilyn started to think that it would be too big for one desk, also it wouldn’t take up very much of her time to do the accounts, so we came up with the idea of turning it into a shop like a lot of other people were doing down that street and now the question was what could we sell?

A seed was planted that day to grow another business, 2 questions came to mind, no.1 with only having £300 saved up, what could we buy with it, and no.2 it had to be something that was big and inexpensive to fill the 4 room house? After going through the Yellow Pages directory with no luck, the answer was staring us in the face, what had we bought ourselves that was big and cheap, a second-hand pram, a second-hand cot for our baby daughter, and because we didn’t really know how selling second-hand prams would go or even if there was a market for this sort of product we decided on a generic name of Rainbow Warehouse then we could sell anything in the future.
We opened on the 6th of April 1977.

Now 2020 nothing has changed Rainbow was the red shop in the middle

People used to go down the passage on the left side of the shop into the garden looking for a big warehouse, but despite their disappointment they didn’t go home empty handed.
1978

What Went Wrong?

A year had passed, we met our accountant to assess the shop’s first year of trading. We had stopped selling second hand stuff and only sold new equipment plus toys and children’s clothes. Marilyn was so excited after all the hard work she had put into starting the business; she couldn’t wait to hear the news. We had not taken a penny out of that business in that year, so we thought there should be a fantastic profit for us.

The devastating news came from our accountant, we had made nothing, all we had was £1,500 of extra stock. We had been busy fools, racing about all over the place buying stock and letting the excitement cloud reality. We found that it had cost more to go to the London wholesalers each week than the profit we made for the goods we had bought. We weren’t buying enough to cover the costs, but we couldn’t buy anymore because we hadn’t got enough customers that week to buy the products – a Catch 22 situation.

Move on Quickly

So, feeling low, we decided that we had had enough of retailing as it was too restrictive for us; we needed instant rewards in our life, so shop-keeping wasn’t for us. We would sell the shop and just concentrate on the property maintenance side of the business. We put the freehold and the business up for sale for £10,000 with an Estate Agent called Langford Smith, he sold businesses as well as houses. He Immediately found a buyer for our shop, a teacher who had come to the UK from Uganda.

Carl Davies Changed Our lives

It was Friday lunchtime and there was a representative in our shop from a company called Tri-ang Pedigree, which sold prams and toys. His name was Carl Davies; he was a rather large gentleman who spoke articulately and loudly – you certainly listened when he spoke. We were sitting in the back of the shop having fish and chips; we always did this when Carl came round and I happened to be about.

It was really a stroke of luck that Carl was there that particular day. Halfway through our fish and chips, I said to him, “Well Carl, this is the last time we will see you because we have sold the shop; we are going to the solicitors at 2 o’clock to sign the paperwork. “Carl was an enormous man – he must have been 30 stone, he instantly stopped eating and looked at me with his mouth open and stared for a few seconds, then said, “Why are you selling?”

I said, “We haven’t made any money in a year; all I’ve done is put a bit more stock onto the shelves and it’s just taking up too much valuable time. I think that the shop is in the wrong position.” I added, “There’s not enough passing trade.” With that, he put his fish and chips down, got up and grabbed me by my collar, pulling me out of the shop. I felt like I was being shaken like a rag doll. He turned me around, looked up the street and then turned me back around and looked down the street, with my toes hardly touching the ground.

He said, “This is one of the main roads coming in and out of Peterborough. Nobody knows you are here because it’s just like all the other shops, offices, and houses down this road. You need to make it stand out from the others.” There was a long row of terraced houses, all with flat fronts. None of them stood out from each other; the houses, shops and offices were just mixed in together, and it was virtually impossible to see our shop.

My Passion for Business Was Ignited

Carl said, “I’ve seen Marilyn and you work so hard over the last year, and I can see you are just about to establish this business. You can’t throw that away; you need to continue. I can see this becoming a great business. “In those few minutes of him shaking me about like a rag doll, and him being so excited and passionate about our business (he was literally spitting out fish and chips as he talked with excitement and passion), my mind was changed. (just like that) I wondered how somebody could be so passionate about something that wasn’t even their own; he was talking about our business. He wasn’t thinking of himself; he could see that we were making a huge mistake, and that convinced me not to sell.

It was on that day that my passion for business was really ignited inside of me. I walked back into the shop and said to Marilyn, “We’re not selling the business.” She asked why, so I told her everything that Carl had said, she said OK, that was fine with her, even though she had done so much work for nothing in the past year. The one thing that I believe made our business successful was that, although we needed to make money, it wasn’t the driving force.

The truth

The truth is that we just wanted to be together, all of the time, every minute of every day. Marilyn proved it that day, by saying OK after spending a year of her life doing more than you could ever imagine for nothing. To turn around to me and say OK when I said we were keeping the shop, and there was no guarantee that we would do any better tomorrow than we did yesterday – this is the lovely nature of the girl that I married. However, she also knew we could not carry on without making any money; we just needed a mentor to tell us where they thought we were going wrong, after that day we turned unsuccessful into successful.

1979

The effect of having a mentor

Rainbow steadily grew on into the beginning of 1979 after the mentoring we had from Carl, in fact in the autumn of 1978 we realized that the business wasn’t growing as fast as it could because customers were asking for more brand named products that we didn’t stock and we couldn’t order them because to get a new brand we had to outlay such a lot of money that we hadn’t got for the first order, and so this was another hurdle to get over.

Off we went to Langford Smith again, this time it was to sell the property but not the business as we would move it, we asked him to find us some premises that we could rent, he asked why and we told him that all of our money was tied up in the property and we needed the money to buy stock, he said that he had a better solution as we had established the business there, we should do a sale and leaseback, something we had never heard of but it worked, we got him as a landlord and he got £20 a week and we got £8,000 in cash, immediately allowing us to double the stock holding and doubling our turnover and profits.

Then we needed to close the shop for a week, we emptied the stock out, so we could knock the inside walls down and put a new staircase in making just a large room upstairs and one downstairs, immediately making it much easier to run the business. You can read more about what happened in the early days by getting the book.

Realizing that we were on to something good as we had come through what we had thought would have been the most difficult time that we would have in business by getting the business up and running and profitable, and now we had created what you might call a proper Retail business.

By now we were bursting at the seams, on a Saturday customers had to queue outside because we couldn’t move in the shop for people and we were so busy that we had to buy a house about a quarter of a mile away in Millfield to store stock, it was three floors high which were packed to the ceilings with stock, we then needed a van and a driver to ferry the goods backwards and forwards all day.

I tell a storey in the book how about a scary situation on a Saturday that made us decide that we must move to bigger premises, so as normal Langford Smith sold the lease and the business for us as a going concern, this was our first of many business sales. We had bought the house for £3,400 we sold the freehold for £8,000, then we sold the lease and business as a going concern for £10,000, not bad for 2 kids that the teachers said we wouldn’t amount to anything in life, remember that it was 1980 so £14,000 profit was a lot of money.

1980

New shop new name

We found a shop in a new shopping centre on the opposite side of Peterborough where a new town was being constructed as overspill for London, and again there was an unexpected twist as most people were coming from London they were spreading the word that we were much cheaper than London prices so every week customers would come from London to visit their friends nearby and then they would bring them to us, a win-win situation, the picture above of the new shop.
1981

Celebrating our first year as Kiddicare

first year as Kiddicare

We had just been through an horrendous year trying to establish the new business in the Shopping Centre that was still being built, it wouldn’t happen in 2020 but in 1980 we just accepted things like that, I suppose setbacks make people stronger, anyway we finished the 1st year on a high and didn’t look back after that. If anyone had told us what was going to happen in the near future, we would have said that it would be impossible either that or it would be a miracle.


Look for a win-win situation

By now you probably are wondering why we were doing this, we had established a property business and had established a thriving baby Nursery shop only to sell it and start all over again.

Well, we wanted to be financially stable or very well off or dare I say it rich, there are also things that we didn’t want, like finding parking spaces and closing the shop when going to pick Elaine up from school, wants and don’t want, both lists just go on, so, to be able to get what we wanted we needed to get a bigger shop with parking, and to employ more staff to make our lives easier.

Marilyn at the new caravan

The money we made on selling our business enabled us to fit out a new shop which was 5 times the size of the old one, although we weren’t doing this just for the money it always helps and is an incentive, we really had a win-win attitude which is another way of describing leveraging, an example was that we bought a caravan at the local seaside for holidays, or shall we say Saturday night and Sunday, then we just happened to find a toy wholesaler so we would buy their surplus stock and store it in the caravan if we couldn’t take it home in one go, the other thing we did when using the caravan for weekend breaks was to do the weeks accounts there so we did them on a Sunday while being at the seaside another win-win situation.

1982

The money just kept rolling in

The heading is taken from page 197 of my book, the average wage for a person working in a shop in 1982 was between 6k and 7.5k but we had started to make 60k pa, having said that we only ever lived on a fraction of that because we knew that we had to invest as much as possible into the business in order to make it grow, as you probably we had lived in a 10ft caravan and been on welfare so we got used to living on next to nothing.

Back in 1977 when Marilyn had sown the seed of creating a retail business she never knew just how or what that seed would grow into or how it would change her as a person or her life. Some people say that they need to have a work-life balance but I think most would really want to just be in their element, and I know that Marilyn was certainly in hers in every aspect of her life at that time. I then devised a system to double the profits without the customers paying for it, I also began to do things easier quicker or in some cases not at all, although I had mentors in life at that time I didn’t have anyone that could help me with the business building part which I think could have made things a lot easier in my mind, so, I was always on the lookout to find mentors that had been where I was at that time in business so I could learn more.


Elaine and Jo in the shop

I didn’t want my children to grow up with the fear that I had, I wanted to bring them up to be confident and to teach them to create a life that they were responsible for, not a life where they were told by others what to do, what to say and at what time, as well as how much they earned. Both Elaine and Joanne started getting their own wages at the age of 10, they both became super salespeople and took every aspect of the business into their hearts and souls, without them working with us, Marilyn and I wouldn’t have had the strength to carry on in times of tremendous stress that came to test us.

1983

Expansion was never on the agender

Our lives had changed out of all recognition over the last few of years, it seemed impossible and at times I thought we were in a dream as we had gone from a real low personally in 1981, see page 192, heartbreaking days, to a high in 1983, we had expanded and then contracted our property business, why? We looked to buy a 47 roomed mansion for a quarter of a million pounds, remember in those days you could buy a detached 4-bed house for 25k, then we ended up buying the best and the dearest house in Stamford Lincolnshire.

We were far too busy to even think that we would ever take on more than what we had already as life was hectic yet really enjoyable, now at the age of 32 things had started to become good we could do things that we had never experienced before like stop off after the shop had closed in the evenings to have dinner in a new hotel with a fancy restaurant mainly because we were too tired to prepare meals for ourselves, we also had started to have holidays abroad.

The shop sales were going crazy and now it was just like it had been in Rainbow, only this shop was 5 times bigger than that one, and with a bigger shop more customers, more stock was needed, as we had run out of space and filled our new house with stock, we saw an advert for a 5000 sq ft building in a village, thinking it would be a farmers shed we went to have a look and as you can see by the picture it was a Co-op supermarket, well as you know by now it was never going to be just a warehouse was it, so the excitement overtook any thoughts of how would we do it.

1984

The year we took the ”T” out of can’t

We had now become millionaires at the age of 34, the years of Self-Education had paid off for us and I was hooked on education to help keep me going forward, keeping my belief up that whatever I wanted in life I could achieve.

This is when I realised that I could take the “T” out of can’t, so that left me with a world in which I could do, have or be anything I wanted, yet at the same time I was still not over my childhood of growing up with the feeling of being inferior to everyone else around me, and so I never had big ambitions other than making a secure life for the both of us and our children and hopefully the grandchildren that we would have one day.


A third shop was opened in 1984 and who did it, Elaine our 13-year-old daughter and Rachel her school friend, unfortunately the school found out 2 weeks later and summoned them back.

There are a lot of children of all ages that could be quite able to have and run a business well before the official leaving age, but sadly they have to remain in school to be brainwashed, so very often knocking out that entrepreneurial streak in them forever.



Rachel showing off the latest matching trends, and Elaine in the shop doing what she loved best, selling.
1985

1-2-3-push

My Dad was an avid cyclist so when the going got tough he would say as he was pedalling, 1-2-3-push, 1-2-3-push, over and over on every 4th revolution of the crank, this took his mind off how hard it was and put his mind into gear motivating the momentum. Dad was the over 60’s UK Penny Farthing champion so he knew a thing or two about mindset, looking back now I know that I have learned so many things from being around him, I would go as far as to say he was the best mentor I have ever had.

I found it impossible to sit still as a child maybe because I have ADHD, always wanting to be on to the next thing, well that didn’t stop, every day we pushed, I have found when you have a vision, that vision creates a purpose and everyone around that buys into that vision will work as a team.

So, in 1985 we expanded to 3 shops and at that time it looked like we could go on expanding forever just like all the other High Street retailers, but as you have probably guessed we are not in the habit of moving with the crowd so expansion in the way of multiple shops would turn out never to be our thing and we would have to find other ways to get the customers to us instead of us going to the customers in the form of shops.

1986

The right path for you

We never separated our business life with our personal life, It was all the same to us which made for a very exciting time. If we had separated them, we would have gone down the route of having literally hundreds of baby shops similar to or should I say the same as Mothercare.

Because we hadn’t separated these two things in our minds, the business had to fall in line with our personal wants and desires and we realised when we got the three shops that strategy was taking us further away from our goals in life.

One of those goals which were very important to us was the fact that we wanted to work together, realising with three shops that were never going to happen as I seemed to be racing around firefighting while Marilyn was in one shop.

We had sold our first shop as a going concern and made an exceptional profit for those days, so why not sell two more and make money and dump all our personal aggravation in trying to run that part of the business that we didn’t want, so that’s what we did, we kept the largest shop and although we thought our takings would go down it didn’t worry us and in actual fact, they went up.

1987

Two heads are better than one

We found that as soon as we spent all of our time together our sales went up far more in the one shop than all 3 put together, why was this? Was it because we only had the 3 shops before and it was too much for one person to deal with, is there a tipping point where the more shops you have the more successful the business will become because you have to put more people and more systems in place.

Well at the end of the day who cares, it’s what you want that matters, so by having a defined set of goals we were able to achieve whatever we put our minds to.

I said that two heads are better than one but only if they are aligned, I found it is one of the natural laws of success and up to now 1987 it’s working well for us, but better still with having Elaine in the business, even at 16 years old we found that 3 heads were better than 2, so if you are thinking of going into business or already in, then considering this approach may help you achieve your goals in business in your personal and family life.

Never wanting to sit still, we pushed the customer service to exceed expectations every day which pushed our sales up and then our staff and storage requirements up so much that we had to build a 2k Sq ft extension onto the shop that year never thinking we would be pulling down in 5 years.

1988

The law of compensation

Elaine Marilyn Me and JoJo

The saying, do more than you are paid to do, is a statement that I would have never understood in a million years if I had stayed as an employee, I am so glad not everyone thinks like that.

I really wasn’t very interested in the majority of places that I worked at, it was all about the money, as much as possible for doing as little as possible, what a shit attitude I had, but I wasn’t happy a catch 22 situation, having the shop and the property maintenance business was dealing directly with customers, this affected my attitude immediately as I could see the end result not like working in an engine manufacturing plant where you are never going to see the finished product let alone the customer.

Having a happy customer was easy as all we had to do was fulfil their hopes wants and dreams that most of them didn’t know they had, but in doing so we had to do more than we were paid to do or so we thought, although doing all of those things are just really the normal part of building a great business but most business people don’t consider it, and that’s why very few create a business that the biggest players on the Highstreet want to acquire.

Although we were very serious about everything to do with the business there also was a fun side to it as well, the party times saw everyone dressing up in costume, we had fairground rides and hot dog stalls outside, even gallons of my dad’s homemade wine, well things were a lot different in the ’80s.

1989

Think with the end in mind

With the passion of building a business you can’t always see why people in power are very often against what you perceive to be good not only for your business but for the community as well. I have always had issues with what I would say is unwarranted red tape but on the other hand, it made me think outside of the box as I always had ideas of how to get around it see page 230 of the book.

We bought some land at the side of the car park, so we could extend it as customers were parking everywhere causing chaos in the Village, then the next year we bought the back gardens on the opposite side then applying for a row of shops which was promptly disapproved which we knew would be, then we applied for what we wanted some houses and got approval as it wasn’t as bad as commercial development.

As soon as they were built we filled them with stock, once again we applied to rebuild the shop without luck so as you can see we painted it, we thought it looked very nice in the middle of the Village but what we really wanted was to rebuild the store with a traditional-looking building.

1990

Training to be the best

We were now 14 years into this business, you would think that we would know everything about the Nursery industry but we didn’t, we knew nothing, well compared to what there was to learn, I think the difference between a lot of businesses is that some people learn their business and that’s it, and they stay in that era letting the business swallow them up into a good work/life balance, a rut or some may say a grave.

I think my ADHD stopped me from settling, or it could have been the fear that I would get caught napping, what I mean by that is a competitor taking my business, so every day was the start of the new era, every day a new way of doing business, it never stopped and why should it.

Any athlete boxer singer actor-musician spends most of their time practising, constantly in training, not necessarily to become the best in the world, but simply to be the best they can become, so weather your cleaning toilets or filling sandbags, whether you’re a salesperson or the owner of a company train yourself to become the best that you can be.

1991

Multiple streams of income

New 5000 sqft warehouse

Multiple streams of income just seemed to come naturally to us, I think it was the excitement of the game of life, we are all free to do anything.

Our property company was well established by now, we had started it in 1974 with 37 Pence for a piece of scrim which is a cloth for cleaning windows, but with the ADHD and my dyslexia I found that I was no ordinary window cleaner as I couldn’t sit or stand still for a minute whether it is in my mind on my body, I had to keep on doing different things, multiple things throughout the day.

In other words, I wasn’t self-disciplined enough to say to myself I will do 20 houses a day every day and that will be my business, I suppose I was a bit like a Bloodhound, they pick up a scent, put their head down and go for it where the scent just takes them, and I suppose it was the same for us, I would do a few houses then somebody would ask me to do a small job for them and that would disrupt the day as one job would lead to another.

When we started the shop it was very much the same, customers would come in and say have you got this or that and instead of saying like a lot of people would no, we don’t do that, my answer would be, we haven’t got it but I’ll try and get it for you, therefore the customers gave me the ideas to continually push the business, it was very simple the customers drove the business and that was great for me because I was used to changing in a second.

At this point in time we were negotiating with the local council to virtually demolish our building and rebuild it to twice the size, but there was a problem if we got planning permission as the shop was full of stock the houses that we built were full of stock and our house was full of stock, we needed to buy a stand-alone warehouse and as you see in the picture our first stand-alone warehouse was 5000 square foot that was on the industrial estate just outside of the village, another milestone in the never-ending development of growing this business.

 

1992

Hindsight is a great thing

We finally got planning permission For the new store after about 4 years of Planning problems.

The shop was looking the best it had ever looked with 100’s of happy customers coming to us every week and yet we were preparing to pull it down and start again because we wanted to turn the Hundreds of customers into thousands and at the time this is the only way we could achieve that or so we thought.

At the same time as getting wrapped up in fighting the planners and being determined to win the battle, I lost sight of what we really wanted, standing still and assessing the situation is something that could easily have been done as just on the edge of the village was a newly built garage showroom that was for sale because the owners had apparently run out of money.

The price was 195k and it had a bigger car park and we also were going to spend the same amount on our rebuilding, well on hindsight perhaps we should have sold our old building and bought the new one and to make matters worse it was twice as big. Ironically five years later we actually bought the building which was now costing us £500,000 so basically it would have paid for itself.

1993

The last straw

The building program was going to take 35 weeks, have you ever heard of keeping a shop open while it’s being demolished and re-built, check it out on page 256 when in the middle of all this I found myself in the local private hospital for 15 days.

I do remember we sold 1.2 million pounds worth of goods over that time from a building site in that 35 weeks and everyone had a smile on their faces, the customers because they could not believe what they had come to and the staff because they took up this incredible challenge and loved it.

This was our temporary collection point.


Akro props holding up the roof and computers are covered over to stop the dust getting in, we still keep on working.
Elaine in the middle with staff emptying the shelves before the walls are knocked down
Demolition on one side of wall sales people selling prams on the other

Starting to shape up


In the 35 weeks we only closed half an hour early one afternoon to have the electric upgraded
When they knocked the front down we worked in the back when they knock the back down we worked in the front



While all this building work was going on Elaine and Joe (Second and third from the left) were still promoting the business by giving thousands of pounds worth of stock away to playgroups and the local maternity unit.
1994

Goals achieved

At last, we had finished the project, this shop would last us forever, we could make a great living out of this shop not only for us and the staff but for the next generation, our girls.

We really had accomplished what we had set out to do when we had first met each other in 1966, our three goals were very simple 1, to spend our lives together, 2, to have a family and three, to own our own house, that was it all achieved.

Those three goals were what we wanted, and we really thought that with hard work we could attain them which we had, but there was one more goal that we desperately wanted in 1966 but never thinking that would ever be able to achieve it, and that was to be in control of our own life, to be safe and protect each other.

As I say we set that goal in 1966 and probably thought about it every single day for the next 8 years, you can read about another goal on page 266 of the book remembering what the mind can conceive and believe you can achieve.

1995

Life couldn’t get any better

It was now 25 years after we had got married, what had got us through all of the shit that we had encountered, wants, needs, focus, and determination I suppose. I didn’t want to go cap in hand begging for welfare ever again, and I needed to look after my family, so I f**king focused like crazy, determined to get through this funfair of life which as we all know includes the house of horrors.

Out the other side into the sunshine, this year, the celebrations would be six holidays not just because of achieving 25 years but the lifestyle we were living, the grand house the Bentley the Porsche the house overseas, eating out every night, it goes on.

What could have been better, um!! The familiar, this lifestyle just wasn’t us so the more that we were away the more ideas we had to create a better business, for us doing nothing was boring, but creating a better business was exciting. And of course, as everybody or maybe I should say some people know when you leave a business even for a short time things change and seldom for the better.

1996

Dads dead

Every business needs a reality check now and again to keep it on track and as you can see if you are following this on a yearly bases it was a regular thing.

But this time it was a bit different as we were now owing over a million pounds with no problem but with the best-laid plans, there are always things that can go wrong.

I had heard of a game for businesses called Dads dead which puts things into perspective. I recommend it to all, not just if you are in business, you will find it in the book.

1997

Back on track

In July of 1997 we had taken the family Jo, Elaine and Scott her husband and Sophie our Granddaughter on just another regular 2 week holiday to Tenerife, sitting by the pool the conversation as always revolved around the businesses, property and the shop, Elaine and Jo our two girls were in their element working in the shop so that seemed to be the only conversation we ever had but I am sure there was more.

Always looking ahead and I happened to mention that I thought by 2002 that our younger customers would be using this new thing called the Internet to buy their prams, saying that was a bit tongue in cheek and quite unbelievable really to think in those days anyone would buy something that they had not seen then send a pram of all things by post, a ridiculous thing to even think of, but nevertheless, we hadn’t got this far in our business by not thinking outside of the box, so why wouldn’t this work. Besides if my first thoughts were that this is ridiculous, everyone else would be thinking the same, well that’s if they thought about it which it became quite apparent that 99% of the trade didn’t until it was too late.

That day a seed was planted into all of our minds and of course not knowing just how it would grow, Scott was working in the world of computers and I said to him you could do that as I thought that anyone who married our daughters would want to come into the family business, it just so happens that he was thinking on the same lines, just perfect.

1998

Gadget

Barrie our technology Manager

I am not saying much here because it’s an amazing story that’s in my book of how like so many other people that joined us just to get a job, most just wanted one to tie them over until they got a better job, as most people didn’t think retail was anything special, but there is one thing that does make retail really special, and that is the people that work in it like Barrie who fitted into the Kiddicare family straight away.

Barrie is a computer man, he created our first website and he stayed at the forefront of the technology that we needed until the business finally shut its doors 9 years after we sold it, but it had been sold on 3 times after we left, now Barrie once again is working with me.


Focussed

Once again I was focused, I have always believed that whatever you focus on with intent will happen, although we had never really stopped focusing it hadn’t been with the normal intensity as we had been carried away buying property but we had also increased the sales so much that when an opportunity came along to buy the two warehouses adjoining ours we jumped at the opportunity.

Now having an extra 10,000 Sq feet we could rent the space out and get another income, but another opportunity came along which filled up the new warehouses with stock that was being cleared by the manufacturers as they changed over to their new year’s models, something that we had not been able to do before because lack of money and space.

More stock at lower prices meant more sales in turn needing more room, then just like magic the building that we didn’t buy at 195k in 1992 came on the market and we bought it for 500k plus another 3 acres of land next to it from another person on the same day for £240k, now we had a total of 55,000 Sq feet of space.

1999

Leading the way into the future of retail sales

kiddicare.com

Success in business comes through many ways, for me it all started with having Dyslexia and ADHD which I will go into more depth in another part of this site. Added to those two things are goals, focus and determination to carry on when others on a similar journey give up, in fact 96% of all businesses in the UK don’t make it to the 10 year mark.

I think that one of the main reasons Kiddicare was so successful was the combination of different talents, that we hired really just normal down to earth people who became extraordinarily motivated by pride, their willingness to change rapidly keeping up with the day to day changes that every fast-growing business has.

Scott, Elaine’s husband was one of those people who joined us part-time for a start to sort out the new internet with Barrie, then full time in 2002 when it was established, he coordinated all of the many 100’s of things that needed to be done as we all were very passionate about making this the best website in the industry, then over the years he was able to build a team in house that could keep taking it to the next level as things continually changed on a daily basis riding the crest of a wave of new technology for the next 10 years.

All of our staff in the first 25 years did multiple jobs and also taking responsibility for their work, one of them I have mentioned before was Barrie aka gadget, he arrived just at the right time when we had been talking about a new way of selling our products, the Internet, we opened the site on December 25th, 1999, this was around 5 years before other shops woke up to this way of selling.


Literally – a free building

How did we literally get this building for free? Page 278 of the book will tell you how I did it. Know sooner had we got the keys the lorries were queuing up outside to be unloaded, filling what was a vast building in around 6 weeks and the stock kept on coming.

We had no choice but to put a mezzanine floor in just like we had done with the other warehouses, our problem was that we never had the money for the mezzanine until we had already filled the floor, so when installing it, every day we had the job of putting stock outside whilst the floor was being installed and take new deliveries in and sort and move stock to go into the main shop, all just never-ending hard work.

2000

Highs and lows

Joanne working the digger

Talk about a madhouse of highs and lows, the business was embarking on a new era launching the website and expecting everyone would be so pleased, well we got all that wrong see page 280, the internet was new not only to us but the World as well, I won’t go into the horrendous details hear, (too long) but we had committed ourselves to it and that was just part of and the consequences of going into uncharted territory but it was something that we had done all of our lives.

The great thing was we had now decided to build another store, but not like anything else that the Nursery industry had ever seen before. By now after spending 23 years of our lives living and breathing in this super trade, I call it a super trade because we had lovely customers we had great suppliers that had become friends, a brilliant team of people around us and our family that worked with us, what more could we want, the answer was nothing.

2001

Expansion

As you can see as the business grow the size of the vans did as well, and also the number of them, when our warehouses were in three locations we actually had three vans running backwards and forwards all day.

As with all rapidly growing businesses nothing runs smooth and problems come along just as winter follows autumn, but a rejection can be great see page 285, it can force you to prove to yourself that what you believe in is worth pursuing when your backs against the wall and all of your suppliers are saying you are the only one with a problem you instinctively know that if they don’t take any notice of you then they could or will go under when the shit eventually hits the fan.

At the same time as fighting fires with the suppliers we were building the warehouse which was also going to incorporate one of the biggest Nursery retail spaces in the UK, some days I wondered if we were retailers or builders but of course we were both.

2002

Customers drove our business

Kiddicare Lincoln Road

We thought the last shop would last forever, but we all know what thought did don’t we, opening was definitely a great occasion in our lives. After building this, no-one would ever think it could be beaten, although we were in competition with others when it came to pricing but we were only in competition with ourselves when it came to the size of the shop, anyway maybe we had gone far enough this time.

Once again a new sense of adventure came over us immediately we opened, we now had the room for a dedicated photography studio and who else but Gadget would have the knowledge of photography, then soon joined by video, as we were selling lots on the internet customers needed a proper demonstration which they would get from us on the shop floor but it had never been done on the internet, consequently, people were breaking the equipment as most products that folded needed a secondary safety lock which they were told about on the shop floor, we needed to stop any arguments and show them remotely just how to operate these things properly.

As normal one thing leads to another and we got a great reputation for great customer service so more and more sales were made now from all over the Country.

2003

Expansion

What can I say, at the same time of building the new shop we had an opportunity to build a standalone 20.000 Sq feet warehouse, not for us but to rent out as an investment because we had got plenty of room for ever, just think we had gone from a 400 Sqft, house to 55,000 Sq feet, in 25 years why would I be thinking that we needed another whopping 20.000 Sq feet more.

If I had thought for one second that we would have wanted it for the shop I would have built it onto it, not the other side of the bloody car park, I remember someone saying stand still and think, Oh yes that was me, that’s just one of the reasons why I do Mentoring so others don’t make so many costly mistakes that we, no I meant to say, that I did.

2004

Just another job

A prime example of the kind of person we wanted to build the business is on page 293, retail does not spring to mind for many people looking for a career but it can be so rewarding.

I think most people who came to work there did not expect what they were coming into, they evolved with the business we took their strengths putting them into positions that they could excel in, in other words we wanted each one to be in their element, that was our goal, it was amazing. I wish I could put all of the photos of the 125 amazing staff in hear.

2005

The kiss principle

We always have used the kiss principle in our businesses from day one, and if we ever deviated from that principle things would go wrong, every time, as most who are reading this will know that kiss stands for, (Keep it simple) so whatever you do in life keep it simple, we bought stock, advertised it and then sold it, that’s it simple.

Now there are four letters in kiss and I’ve only used three up to now, the last letter, the last S is the most significant letter in the word so keep it simple, that’s the thing you have to do but if you don’t then the last letter stands for stupid, and I admit that I’ve used the whole word many times but I wouldn’t recommend it to you.

By now this fantastic shop that employed around 60 full-time staff was once again as crazy as all the other shops had been, just to put it into context, customers would say to me over the years in all of the shops, your busy today Neville, I would look down at the floor and if I could see carpet I would say I think it’s busy when I can only see shoes.

2006

Boundaries

There were no boundaries, as you know if you have taken a look around this site, we are and have always been into property with the shop as what you might describe as a side-line 😊 although it’s true we had more passion for that retail business in our little finger than we had in our entire bodies for property.

I can’t quite believe that I have just said that, we loved property but we loved everything about the Nursery industry better, and you know why, it was because of the people that worked in that industry, whether they were in manufacturing wholesale or like us, retailers, we made our life in this industry, loving every minute taking the ups as well as down in our stride.

Not coming from a Nursery or retail background or for that matter any type of business background we never knew the boundaries so we just kept on going when others stood still, as I say we were into property and had just bought some land to put a 100k sq. ft warehouse on as an investment, when Elaine and Jo saw the plans they immediately said Dad, build us a bigger shop, and you know by now what we did, I think at the time it was going to be the biggest Nursery shop in the Country, or maybe even the biggest in the World.

2007

Mixed emotions

How can I describe this year, well with totally different emotions. The Country had been on a high as property prices went through the roof in 2006 but by 2007 they had stalled and in fact, were crashing, the shop sales were going down and we had just built yet another 20k sq. ft warehouse to add to our existing ones.

I thought that the sales had gone flat because I was once again concentrating on the biggest project that we had ever taken on, this time the store would be the largest baby Nursery store in the Country, in fact, maybe in the World.

Anyone would understand that we could have mixed emotions over the property business going up to record levels then crashing and not taking advantage of selling when the prices were so high, but that’s not why, or that we had embarked on the biggest build that we had ever done, borrowing millions then the sales going flat for the first time ever, no it wasn’t that either, it was the fact that my Dad died on the 7th august just at the time when we were living our lives to the full his had gone and my heart went with it.

2008

Unbelievable

When Marilyn and I stood in that cold dark and damp 2 up 2 down terraced house in the winter of 1977 Marilyn planted a seed in our heads that we could have a shop to generate a bit more income selling a few second-hand prams, after all there must have been around 12 small independent shops in Peterborough where we lived that sold baby things ranging from knitting wool toys and bedding to a couple selling just second-hand prams.

Then there were the 4 big pram retailers in the town, and they were far beyond our comprehension but the 12 others we could relate to, we had no thought of competition just the thought that if they can make a living what’s to stop us, we found out shortly after opening from someone that was in the trade that it was the worst time in the last 30 years for Nursery shops and there were 2200 operating in the UK, but we were (init) and ever since whenever people have said, if I could get the deals that you do I would start a business, I answer by saying you have to be init to winit.

By 2008 there were only around 250 independent shops left and they were dropping like flies mainly due to the recession starting to bite and something that most didn’t understand and that was the internet, the recession would have naturally wiped lots out but the internet finished all but the ones that could think outside the box.

2009

Who dares wins

Katie Prince

It was always a dream that one day we would advertise on the TV but unfortunately, the costs were astronomical but an opportunity presented itself and that dream came true at the beginning of 2009.

It was probably the worst time for us to spend large amounts of money on a form of advertising that we had never done before but as you know by now we never did what most people would do.

We sponsored a television programme that again most people wouldn’t do because it was so controversial at the time and that was called the next chapter.


The Largest Independent Baby Store in Europe

Largest Independent Baby Store in Europe

In the space of 32 years, we had gone from knowing absolutely nothing about any type of retail business apart from being a customer, this I believe on hindsight is the most important thing one needs to understand, for us knowing more about the Baby Nursery Equipment trade than any other company in the UK.

We started the business in a two-up, two-down terraced house (picture in the 1977 section above) with second-hand prams, to becoming the largest Independent Retailer of new baby nursery goods in Europe employing 125 full-time staff just in one shop.

What can I say, how did we do it, well I suppose there is one thing I can say and that is at the age of 24 standing in that dole office begging for money I took the “t” out of can’t, and if that is of interest to you, I am sure you will find my book of great value on your journey in both life and business.

2010

To hell and back

All businesses go around in circles, some in weeks some in months others in years, even the ones that you wouldn’t normally think about having any problems, give them long enough and the cracks will appear sometimes after 50 years.

There is a technique in business to having a successful exit, and that is to know when the time is right to jump off the roundabout.

Since the start of this latest project in 2006 in the proceeding 4 years we had been to hell, see page 353 and then back to be more successful than ever before, we were turning over 40 million with a great profit and our goal this time was 200 million which we were set up to achieve, the question was simple although we had got the systems in place and it could easily be done did we, Marilyn and I want to do it? A simple question and that’s what great businesses should be built on simple questions.

2011

Kiddicare sold to Morrisons for £70M cash

Kiddicare Cygnet Park

The decision was made to sell this fantastic business of ours and so with the majority of the large Highstreet names interested in buying us the deal was soon done. The business was handed over on a plate with everything running like clockwork, all they had to do to carry on doing what we had perfected as the success of the business was to feed the golden goose in the same way as we had to achieve the golden eggs every day that we knew was in there, our hopes and dreams were to see the business that Marilyn had built carry on forever giving our family and many people jobs for life and millions of happy customers.

We would have liked to have stopped to oversee the transition and to have taught them just how important it is to look after the golden goose, but I think my knowledge would fell on deaf ears.

Having said that I believe we achieved a world record for an Independent Baby Nursery Shop and worth every penny, selling a business that we had grown from nothing over 34 years was a great achievement.

Over those 34 years along the way, we had sold 3 other Nursery businesses always putting the proceeds back into building a bigger and better business, but this one was going to be the last.

Now days apart from being involved in many businesses of our own I help other people either in or wanting to go into business, a frequent question I get asked something on the lines of, what is the 3 or it could be 5 things to making a business successful, there are 100’s most are in the book lots are between the lines, reverse psychology.


Jo, baby Heidi, Scott, me Elaine Sophie in front Marilyn and Charlie

Along with all the things that we learned along the way the one overriding thing that we had was the desire to be together, no matter what we did, that desire extended to Elaine and Joanne and their family our grandchildren and so on. We feel very lucky to have had so many years sharing our lives with them all.

My Book

Absolutely fantastic!
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Absolutely fantastic! A truly inspirational read. Written with such passion demonstrating all the life long hard work, sheer determination, love and care plus having the essential ability to think outside the box.

 

Must read book… ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A must-read book if you are in business, retail, dealing with the public or just want to understand what it takes…
Inside is so much knowledge from the man who sold his business at the height of the recession for £70mil, no mean feat.
The fact that all the proceeds go to charity is just an added bonus.

What a lovely, kind man with a great philosophy. So many high street stores could learn so much from this book.

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