There are few retailers these days that press all my proverbial buttons. I am not big into formulaic High Street chains, and would rather watch paint dry than spend an afternoon shopping in Westfield Stratford City, close to my home. Even more so as Christmas approaches as fast as a Japanese bullet train.
If I am feeling naughty on a Friday morning, before I go into work, I will pop into Miller of Kensington (in London) and ask the kindly butcher to cut me a chunky loin of lamb.
He opens his doors early, always gives me a discount and provides service with a smile, an art slowly disappearing from our High Street.
He is obviously a shrewd businessman because he has just opened a cafe (Fait Maison) opposite. He keeps imploring me to give it a go, but I have not quite got round to tasting its coffee and pain au raisins (deadlines and all that). But I will.
The Garden Basket, a greengrocer a few doors down from Miller, is also a personal favourite. Whatever my needs – sprigs of rosemary for the lamb – the owner meets them, even if it means him rooting around in the room at the back of the store before he finds what I am after.
Apart from these two gems, I like Boots because of its Advantage card, and also Ramila, who works on the perfumery counter and is prone to giving me free samples of Sauvage whenever I top up with Fahrenheit eau de toilette spray. I also like the shop next to my flat where I buy newspapers at the weekend and the odd pint of whole milk. “How are you Mr Jeff?” is the usual greeting. “Knackered”, is the standard response.
Timpson’s business ethos
But my favourite retailer by far is shoe repairer Timpson. Not just because it has rescued many of my well-trodden shoes from the proverbial knacker’s yard. Or as a result of cutting spare keys for me in a hurry when my sons have suddenly wanted to decamp in my flat for a prolonged period of time.
It is all to do with its business ethos, set by founder and chairman Sir John Timpson and carried on by his son James, chief executive.
Unlike many other companies, it gives former prisoners a chance to get back into working life by employing them in its stores. Some 10 per cent of the workforce are ex-convicts, although Timpson likes to refer to them as ‘foundation colleagues’.
The retailer also runs academies in three jails where prisoners can learn the trade. A refreshing and bold approach, which other employers should follow.
Given Timpson’s pioneering approach to employees, it is no surprise to learn that it is now leading the way in a project designed to encourage people on below-average earnings to save for a rainy day.
The work is being overseen by the National Employment Savings Trust, set up originally to ensure every employer can offer a pension scheme under the new auto-enrolment regime.