My husband and I were taking our granddaughter away for the week to Abersoch. It was going to be great having the little 3 ½ year old to ourselves for the week – a treat but hard and responsible work!!

I drove to the nearby shops to pick up some last minute things for our holiday which included getting some sun cream for the youngster. The bright blue sign of the co-operative pharmacy was easy to spot from a distance but as I drove past, heading for a convenient road side parking place, I wondered if it was actually open, as the windows looked as though they had been boarded up with beige slats although some large posters were clearly on display.

On walking to the door I could see that there were people inside and the ‘Half Price’ and ‘Any 6 for £5’ posters clearly indicated that there were some good offers to be had.  Immediately on entry the fact that there were lots of offers was obvious but the shop seemed chaotic, with red price signs all over the place and it wasn’t clear which items were half price and which were in the 6 for £5 offer. The shop was very busy with customers waiting for prescriptions as well as those having a look around. The counter was at the back of the shop and there didn’t appear to be any assistants free to ask where the sun products were, so I had to walk around all the shelves to find the sun cream section as there was no signage to highlight the product area.

Some of the creams were half price including the Nivea range, which looked to be good value because of this – however I wanted a little more information about which would be the best for my granddaughter so I took what seemed to be the most appropriate 2 products (one Nivea and one Calypso) to the counter.

Although initially there wasn’t anyone behind the counter a very pleasant gentleman immediately appeared to ask if he could help. I explained what I was looking for and laughed about the fact that I was probably being very hopeful that the Welsh weather would be good, in wanting sun cream for the following week. He agreed and surprisingly, to my concern, inferred that my granddaughter would probably not need anything too strong as this was only England. I had expected him to tell me that you couldn’t be too careful with young children’s skin and that at this time of year the sun’s rays were strong and often deceptive.

I showed him the 2 products I had selected. The Nivea was a SPF factor 50 and the Calypso a factor 30. I asked him what difference this made and he told me that basically the factor 50 meant that it would take 50 times longer for the skin to burn that if nothing was being used and the other would be 30 times longer.  I asked which he thought would be best for what I wanted and he didn’t show a preference so I asked what the prices were as the Calypso wasn’t ticketed at half price like the  Nivea. Whilst he checked the prices on the till, the customer standing next to me told me that the Calypso was very good. She said because it was blue and then changed to clear, her children had thought it was great fun and also the spray mechanism made it easy to apply –  as children never stand still and you could see by the colour the bits that had been covered!

The assistant then informed me that the Calypso was half price as well – making it a much cheaper option at £2.99 rather than the £6.24 for the Nivea. I decided to buy the Calypso and was pleased when I looked at the bottle on arriving home, to see that it was water resistant as nothing had been mentioned about this when I spoke to the assistant.  On reflection I wasn’t too impressed with the service that I had received!

Shopper viewpoint: There are a few things that really turn shoppers off. The first one has to be having a shopfront that makes the shop look closed, is it or isn’t it open?  With so many shops closed-down in the High Street these days, you have to be extra clever at demonstrating that you are still open!  And, having slatwall fixturing across your windows is a pretty effective way to look closed! I know why the co-operative have done it, clearly in such a small shop they have density issues and want to increase their footage for merchandising more products. The mystery shopper then found the shop “chaotic”, what a great word to describe something other than a shopping environment, but not a word I would want to see being used to describe a shopping experience of a customer. However small a shop is, there are always opportunities to give customers clear communication of what’s where and even provide product benefit point-of-sale that helps customers select the right products for their needs. Here at The Market Creative we have some interesting and highly effective approaches to the whole world of shopper communication and point of sale management. If only we could share these with those nice people at The Co-operative Pharmacy.

For more details contact: graham@themarketcreative.com