The forecast for the weekend was sunshine and so time to buy jelly shoes for my granddaughter and picnic equipment for what was obviously now going to be a long hot summer!

Our nearest Matalan is on a small retail park but has a large car park in front of it, although from the road the Aldi sign dominates and most of the cars were parked near to the Aldi shop. The Matalan store sign at the entrance to the development was hardly noticeable and although their sign over the store entrance was large, it did not stand out. Whilst there was a sign over the door saying ‘Welcome to Matalan’  the outside made it look more like it was closing, rather than inviting customers to go in – we certainly didn’t feel enticed or welcomed by it!

As soon as we went inside, the boring grey exterior disappeared and we were hit by a sea of colour and a strong summer blue theme on p.o.s. highlighting a number of different Cardholder  Offers; including ‘ 3 for the price of 2’ and ‘2 for £20’. The signs said to ask at the counter to become a cardholder, which we made a mental note to do.

We didn’t notice a store directory but almost immediately saw a huge sign indicating where the Kidswear and Home sections were. The way through the store was well signposted and we entered the Kidswear department through a large tunnel like section.  The ceiling height was very high throughout the store and the view to the Kidswear looked flat and rather boring as there was a sea of stock that wasn’t displayed in a particularly attractive fashion. There were signs highlighting the different age areas but we didn’t find them very clear and we made our way straight to the shoe section.

There was a reasonable range of shoes for a 3 year old but only 1 jelly style in a choice of 2 colours. The jellies were very pretty with a daisy on them so looked a bit special compared to the plain styles that are available. My granddaughter immediately decided she wanted them – tried them on and the buying decision was made in seconds.

The Home section was next to the Kidswear and looked more interestingly displayed. We looked for picnic baskets but couldn’t see any and there was no-one around to ask.

We spotted a range of Cooler Bags with matching Picnic Blankets and an assortment of other accessories and decided that this was a more practical solution than a wicker basket. Not only that, but they were included in the ‘3 for 2’ offer so I went to find someone to ask if we could become a cardholder that day and get the offer as this wasn’t clear on the signs.  I found Tasmin in the boyswear area and she pleasantly assured me that this was fine and that there would be no problem getting a card for immediate use. I asked if there was a charge for the card and she told me that there wasn’t.

When I returned to tell my daughter she had decided which colour combination she liked but couldn’t find the matching blanket. So once again I went to find someone to ask and Tasmin was again the nearest assistant that I could find. She told me that all the stock was out and suggested that if that was the colour we wanted wasn’t there then it might be worth trying on line. This would have been helpful except for the fact we wanted it for use that weekend.

We selected another colour and we looked round for a 3rd item to make up the ‘3 for 2’ deal. Unfortunately most of the accessories seemed to go with the blue and green colour combination that had been our original choice and so we ended up getting a 2nd blanket. It was a pity because we were tempted by a number of items on display and would have bought more if the colours had been right – frustrating for us and an opportunity missed for Matalan.

Before we went to pay we had a quick look around the ladies fashions and my daughter was tempted by a dress that was on offer at £10 – a real bargain which she couldn’t resist.

There was a long queue building at the tills and not all the till points were open but this was very quickly rectified as soon as it was noticed by one of the assistants. The service was fast and we didn’t have to wait long. It reminded us of Primark! Linda served us; she made no communication with us until she’d entered everything we were buying, and then she asked if we had a Matalan Card. She quickly arranged this for us and we got the Offer prices. That meant we got a free picnic blanket which was great but we could have bought more!!!!

Imagine a retailer that sets out to really understand customer engagement and give customers a shopping experience, making it easier for them to shop the store, geared to informing, educating and winning buyers; with both point of sale and sales people who are visible. Imagine too, being enticed to have instantly a 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.

Matalan could better capitalise on all this and more!

Are Matalan missing some simple retail basics?

We think so.

Anonymous Shopper for: The Market Creative, Manchester

For more details contact: graham@themarketcreative.com