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Shop Talk: Moulton Pet Stores
9th August 2016

By Sandra Pearce

Nigel and Lorna Mynott have been running Moulton Pet Stores in rural Lincolnshire for years, and say their success is down to good customer service


On Sundays, you could see the Mynotts out on their motorbikes

Moulton Pet Stores celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, and owners Nigel and Lorna Mynott say their success comes down to good old-fashioned customer service, and the fact that their customers like their ‘quirky’ shop.

The Moulton shop, located in rural Spalding, is housed in what used to be a flower shed, which is not surprising considering that Spalding is famed for its flower and vegetable cultivation. “This building was said to be the first boiler-fired glass house in the area,” said Lorna, who used to work in a flower nursery and would help her mum-in-law in the pet shop on Friday afternoons. The store was opened and run by Nigel’s mum, who sadly died 18 months later. “I was helping mum part-time in the beginning, but when she died, we took over,” said Nigel.


Big bags of food make an interesting display

The couple live onsite, in an adjacent bungalow, with their two grown-up sons and Nigel’s long-retired dad. When they first took over the shop, they were open seven days a week, but when the boys arrived they took on a Sunday staff member so they could have some time off.

That did not quite work according to plan as customers would still pop around to ask questions. They also had some customers who would drop by after hours, including one customer who would knock on their house window at 9pm! Installing gates finally put an end to these nocturnal visits. Customers still occasionally ask to buy products outside of normal hours, though this is now very infrequent, and the couple oblige as far as possible.


The Mynotts bag up most of their food themselves

Lorna recalls how in the early days it was a real juggling act. “I used to have Harry at 17 months and Henry at one month in car seats in the van, and granddad in the back of the van on a bale of hay, making deliveries! We did what we had to do… we had to make it work, but we got the place up and running. Our boys have grown up in the store.”

At a young age, Harry showed a keen entrepreneurial streak and convinced his parents to let him get a greenhouse so he could grow plants to sell to customers. Both boys, now 19 and 20, are in full-time employment elsewhere. “People say we have a unique life, but to us, it’s just normal,” she added.


Every square inch instore is used

The shop has gone from strength to strength, and has seen a fair bit of change, says Nigel – though both joke that they are usually 10 years behind, and point to their old-fashioned ‘Arkwright’ till on the counter. “It is on the list of things to change,” said Lorna.

When they started, most of their trade was in cat and dog products as a tack shop in the village sold equine supplies and food, and the nearby Moulton Mill (the tallest windmill in the country) was still working and producing animal feed for animals including goats, sheep, pigs and poultry.

“Then the tack shop closed and we went into horse food, and then the mill closed and the miller came and asked if we would take on his customers, so we started selling big animal food, and still do today,” she added.


Cat section also shows a leaning towards pre-bagged

Today, the shop sells ‘a nice mix of everything’, says Nigel, with an emphasis on food sales. “Everything sells pretty much uniformly across the store,” he added. They sell a lot of pre-bagged own mixes. “We’ve never done weigh-up, we’ve always bagged it up. It’s easier for us to bag up and sell rather than let people do weigh-up. There are only the two of us, and a part-timer on Saturday, and we can have a lot of people come in at once and it can get quite hectic in here.

“And although we do not stock as many lines as we used to, we do a lot of special orders and can get most things in, often by next-day delivery. We’d rather stock products that sell quickly, and so stock what we know our customers will use.”


Something for everyone

Big 12kg and 15kg bags of dry dog food sell well, with a strong slant towards working dogs. Wild bird and pond food also sell well, thanks to this rural location. The couple also go through a lot of raw food, and have always done so, starting out with raw tripe all those years ago.

LONG RELATIONSHIPS
Their customers come roughly from within eight miles, which apart from the market town of Spalding includes numerous small villages.

“Many people around here have a lot of animals, and many have a mix, so will have a pond, chickens, dogs, cats,” he said. There are also a lot of horses.


Pet food takes up the bulk of floor space

A number of their customers have been using the shop since it opened, and the Mynotts know them and their regular orders very. “Very often, we see somebody drive in and we know what they are here for before they even come in,” said Nigel.

Some will call in their orders and pay over the phone, and then swing into the carpark to pick it up, a twist on the increasingly popular ‘click-and-collect’ method of shopping.


There’s a lovely atmosphere instore

Moulton’s ‘call-and-collect service’ is especially popular with mums who have babies or toddlers in the car. At other times, customers will call to say they cannot get to the shop before closing, and their orders are left outside the shop for when they can get there.

It’s all about providing a good customer service, said Nigel. “It’s simple things, like we always carry bags to the car. We will always do anything we can to help.”


Treats sell well

They offer a free delivery service on orders over £40, with a minimal charge on other orders, which is popular with the nearby villages.

About 10 years ago, they started a horse rug cleaning service, to boost trade in the quieter summer months, and in 2009, introduced microchipping. Nigel is also a Suitably Qualified Person (SQP), so can sell prescription wormers and flea treatments over the counter, which he does for horses, small animals and birds. They also offer a worm egg count service for horses through Westgate Labs, which enables owners to send off a sample to test for levels of worm and parasite infestation for a targeted worming programme.


Wild bird feeders of every shape and size

Oh, and Lorna washes the football kit for the local football team, which comes to two kits a week. “You should see my washing line on Mondays – it’s covered in kit,” she said. “We do absolutely everything ourselves, all maintenance, orders, paperwork, delivery, everything. We both work here six days, though Nigel tends to do the paperwork and purchasing while I do more of the maintenance like hedge cutting and grass cutting.” She’s so handy with maintenance that she was given a chainsaw for her 40th birthday!

Come Sunday, the two try and do something different and get out somewhere, which can mean taking their three dogs for a long walk in the Lincolnshire Wolds or going for a motorbike ride – Nigel rides a Triumph and Lorna has a Honda.


Grooming aids are behind the counter

They have a two-year-old English Springer Spaniel, a golden oldie Golden Retriever and a gentle Rottweiler. The spaniel always goes on the delivery route, and as soon as the van pulls back into the shop’s carpark, she’s straight inside because she knows she gets a treat. “It’s her wages,” laughs Lorna.

As with so many businesses today, the Internet poses the biggest challenge. “It has affected us, especially in super premium food and among horse owners, as you can get food so cheaply now online, and a lot of these companies do two for one offers,” said Nigel.


Customers love the quirky nature of Moulton Pet Stores

They have also seen more competition in the area, with big pet stores and country stores opening in the area and in Spalding. For now, however, the bulk of their customers remain loyal. Any advertising is mostly in the local papers, but word of mouth always works best, they said. And their sons have got them a Facebook page, which they update regularly. “We keep it active to show what’s going on, and we have picked up a couple of new customers because of it,” said Lorna. “We do realise we have to keep up with the times, to a point.”

Customer attitudes have also changed, notes Nigel. “They know they can come in here for advice; before people would come in and tell us want they want. Now they are more open to advice on food and other bits… they do trust us now. We still get some people who know everything, and no matter what advice you give them, they know best. But that’s the same everywhere.”


Signs outside the store announce its location

A few years ago, their sons did a survey among their customers in conjunction with their A-level business studies paper. They interviewed 50 customers, who ranked the store on a number of aspects and answered questions on their experience and thoughts. Lorna said: “We scored very high on customer service, and every single one of our customers said they did not want to see the shop change. It was so lovely reading their comments. All of them said they liked the rural atmosphere and the quirky nature of our shop.”