What do you buy your son in law when he’s 30?  He’s always wanted to camp and has been trying to convince my daughter that it would be great fun especially now that their little girl is old enough to enjoy it. So when my daughter agreed that camping would be worth a try, a tent and some basic equipment seemed like an inspired idea for a present.

I decided that we would visit GO Outdoors as they looked to have a much bigger range than Halfords. I often go into Manchester and had a rough idea where the shop was located and as I was taking my daughter and granddaughter I also thought that we could have some lunch there as the website said they had a cafe.

The store was easy to spot from the road, although I got a bit confused as the Aldi signage was also very strong and I wasn’t sure where the entrances to each were.

The windows suggested lots of offers inside. There were posters informing, amongst other things, of the Price Guarantee and Discount card. There was also a hand written notice saying that the cafe wasn’t open today – a big disappointment!! The entrance hall, whilst an impressive space had a rather untidy selection of items in it. The Climbing wall and a model suspended from a rope caught our eye, but we didn’t stop to look at anything as we were immediately spotted by a member of staff at the bottom of the escalator, who welcomed us and asked what we were looking for. She was polite, if rather cold, but efficiently told us the directions to the tent section. I’d expected to see some sort of eye catching display and a store layout but there was neither. We turned left and walked along to the end of the store and soon came across the impressive tent area. At the section entrance was a sign saying that there were tent Demo Days over the weekends which would help you to choose the right tent and show how easy it is to put them up and take down.

Ian quickly spotted us and came across to chat. Ian got a message on his walkie talkie and left us. He hadn’t asked us any questions about what we wanted before this and we were left to wander in and out of all the tents. We had been in them all and whilst each had tickets with the tents price and specifications we also had had quite a few questions to ask, so I went to find a member of staff. Initially it was hard to spot anyone, most seemed to be heading to and from a back stockroom, but then I saw Ian returning to the tent area and followed him back. Ian was great – on hearing what were looking for he recommended the Vango Icarus 500 , a great tent at a great offer price.  I asked about the Demo days and was surprised that he wasn’t very enthusiastic about these.

When we asked about all the other things that would be needed to camp, Ian went through all the basic essentials – giving us good tips and offering us money saving ideas. I thought that a starter bundle would be a good idea but there wasn’t any offer of this. His approach certainly meant he gained our trust and confidence in what he was advising. Ian when talking about prices had referred to the Discount Card price and this was clearly evident on the signs around the store, however he didn’t offer any explanation about this and I had to ask exactly what it was. A £5 card which gave you access to all the Discount prices – it seemed like a good idea.

Ian left after spending a lengthy time with us. There was no pressure to buy and I was surprised that he didn’t give us some information to take away with the details that we had discussed.

We then went to have a look around the rest of the store. There was a great range of stock but in some areas the displays and shelves looked a little sparse.  The presentation lacked sharpness and whilst numerous signs indicated the different sections some areas were more clearly defined than others. We found the pricing signs a little confusing – with normal prices, offer prices, sale prices and discount card prices.

At the bottom of the escalator we were wished a cheerful goodbye from a male assistant at the reception desk. It would have been nice to have had a similar cheery welcome and also maybe an introduction to the Discount Card as we had arrived in the store – we might have spent more!

Shopper viewpoint: Imagine a tents and camping retailer that sets out to really understand customer engagement and give customers a consistent shopping experience, making it easy for them to shop the store and find their way around it, all geared to informing, educating and winning buyers; with both point of sale and sales people who are evident, visible, knowledgeable and want to close the sale. Imagine too, being enticed to have a Discount Card that saves you money and encourages you to buy more at the beginning of the shopping journey and goes on to provide reasons to visit again and again.

GO Outdoors could capitalise  on all this and more, delivering a retail business that is different, better and more special than their competition, delivering a truly helpful shopping journey every time. Imagine then telling people that’s what you do?

Is Go Outdoors missing some simple retail basics? We think so.

Anonymous Shopper for: The Market Creative, Manchester

For more details contact: graham@themarketcreative.com