Customer service is key to Coleman’s success

Colemans stationers and the Oundle Bookshop are two irreplaceable shops in Oundle.

The Coleman family have been running their chain of stationery shops in Northamptonshire for 50 years. John Coleman started as a newsagent in Higham Ferrers in 1969, and the family lived at the back of the shop. He sold that business, and set up selling business machines and typewriters before expanding into office supplies. They now have shops in fourteen towns.

When Colemans first arrived in Oundle in 2002, it took over the premises of King’s on New Street, which had been a stationers and printers for over one hundred years. Colemans of Oundle now caters for all office-related needs, back-to- school stationery, as well as fine art and craft supplies.

The shop is so packed with such a variety of stock, there is literally something for everyone, along with the friendliest staff, who are always on hand to help.

Down the street in the Market Place, is the Oundle Bookshop. The beautiful Georgian building is an iconic feature in the Market Place. It has been a bookshop since 1923, and was acquired by Colemans in 2010.

There is a huge selection of books surrounding a comfortable seating area where the idea of “try before buy” is encouraged.

The shop is also a busy hub promoting local authors. Joey Patterson-Gordon, who is the managing director of the business and daughter of Mr Coleman said: “We like to support local authors who may not have the resources to publicise themselves elsewhere, so we like to offer publicity for them.”

While competition from online services like Amazon and large shops like Waterstones have hit local bookshops, the Oundle Bookshop remains a well-supported and successful business because of its focus on customer service and careful planning. Ms Patterson-Gordon said: “We’ve had to be very focused on what we’re good at, and not diversify too much.” It is a brand that people have come to know and trust in the county.

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She highlighted the main difference between buying books from a local bookshop, and buying them online. “When you buy something off the internet, you’ve got to know exactly what you’re looking for. But the joy of coming to a bookshop is that you can browse and pick books up you’ve never heard of.”

But the key to success when running a small business, she said, is to be “very visible, absolutely love what you do, and love serving customers.”

Mr Coleman, Ms Patterson-Gordon and their team clearly have a passion for good customer service and it is clear to see that there is a loyal clientele for their shops. Ms Patterson-Gordon agreed. “We are very lucky in this town that we have a loyal customer base.”

“His customers are his life and blood,” said Ms Patterson-Gordon about her father, who can often be seen in the town in his leather apron from his picture framing work.

That is a quality about the Colemans’ shops that their customers recognise and appreciate. Many shoppers in Oundle do not go to the bookshop just to buy a book. The welcoming environment means they can just browse and also socialise with other people.

Millie Trotter
December 5, 2019