First published on 15th December 2014 on www.robinsonsequestrian.com
Since we announced an intention to open our fifth store in Hunslet, Leeds, we’ve been inundated with questions about when it’ll open. I guess that’s not surprising but it’s still great to see how warmly we’re being welcomed by the local equestrian community.
While we’ve needed a few weeks to turn two bare, empty units into a stunning 15,000 sq ft store, we’re very keen not to disappoint all those who can’t wait to visit by making our opening any later than we absolutely have to. The fact that we’re in December has only added to the pressure with Christmas shopping plans understandably the reason behind many of the queries – although I can guarantee that it will be before Christmas!
What’s our ‘opening date’ going to be, then? The best answer I can give is this: “as soon as possible”. Not only is that the truth, it also handily removes the problem of having a given date known about well in advance.
Why is that a problem? Well, rewind to November 2003, the day that our Ashton store re-opened following a year of re-build after our 2002 fire. We rather inadvisably chose to make our opening date a Sunday, where trading hours are restricted to just six hours, and simply let it be known what date it would be a few weeks in advance. We didn’t spend any money advertising it and there was no such thing as Facebook, Twitter or any other social networking sites, back then. What happened that day involved thousands of people, an ambulance, a police helicopter and literally dozens of technical parking offences – and it all came about just from word of mouth.
I won’t go into it in depth because I’ve blogged about it before but it’s fair to say that that experience has made us very sensitive to what can happen when dealing with huge levels of expectation. Of course it’s lovely to be at the centre of it and we certainly appreciate the attention but it’s also necessary for us to be responsible and avoid problems and poor experiences, when we have already learned the lesson.
Today, social media is vital to our communications. Every day, we try our hardest to gain the most clicks and the greatest level of engagement we can. With things like store openings, I have to be honest: social media scares me a little. We’ve all heard the stories about what can happen when, for example, a teenager’s parents are spending a weekend away; the teenager in question arranges a bit if a party because, well, their parents aren’t there to stop them. Before you know it, the whole thing’s gone viral and the police are being called to remove eight hundred rioting revellers from a sleepy cul-de-sac.
Of course we’d like as many people as possible to visit our new Leeds store, when it opens – but I’d hate for any of them to regret being there. Here’s the deal, then: we won’t have an official ‘opening date’, we’ll just tell you when we’ve opened. If you follow us on Twitter or Like us on Facebook, that’s where we’ll announce it first. If you’re a recipient of our emails, I’m sure you’ll notice it appearing on the odd email too.
I promise there’ll be no celebrity cutting a ribbon (been there, done that – with Milton in 1997*) that you might feel aggrieved about missing out on, just a brand new shop with a fantastic new team of staff and a regular amount of other shoppers to make your visit as pleasant as possible. I know anticipation and novelty are great ways to build awareness and hype but it doesn’t last and it actually counts for very little if we then find it harder to tempt you back to our Leeds store in the future – when all the attention has moved to where (and when) the sixth Robinsons store will be opening… I hope this all sounds sensible to you.
* Milton? Cutting a ribbon? Here’s the proof (we used a carrot):