Hilary Cookson is owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire.
A very odd question was put to me last week during an interview to be shortlisted for a Lancashire business award: “What is your plan to ensure the continuity of your business after you retire?” Now, dear reader, I may have been doing this job for 35 years and now be approaching my mid-50s, but I was more than brought up short. What is my plan? Do I need one? In my own immortal eyes I am still building and evolving my business and riding the rollercoaster of the changing face of retail.
My business is nothing like it was 10 years ago. In that time, we have refit, redecorated, relit. We have launched a Moda in Pelle concept as its first ‘gold partner’, opened a cafe bar and most recently a fully stocked delicatessen. All of these changes are what led me to enter the award for a retail experience. We are no longer one of the country’s largest womenswear independents - we are, as our strapline says, whatever you want us to be.
Some years ago, I did a course in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and one of the phrases I have carried forward from that is: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.” This has been our watchword. There seems little point in verbally objecting to an additional 600 houses being built in our beautiful village. Instead, we must consider who will live in them and what their needs will be, then react to meet those needs, ready for the next set of challenges.
I have banned my staff from using the phrase “We always used to…” They have been instructed to wipe all memory from their hard drive of sales and buying and go out with a fresh eye every day.
When my customers come into the store, they invariably comment that they never know what I am going to be up to next. Perfect. Once I have run out ofthe ideas that keep my creative juices flowing and the bank manager anxious, I will start to consider what to do next. #lovemy life. (And there is the next challenge! Social media marketing and the middle market retailer).