Colwyn Bay based business man Chris Duckworth was among the first wave of businessmen to recognise the potential of ecommerce 15 years ago. Mr Duckworth, who runs a newsagents and tobacconist shop in the local area, expanded his merchandise to include welsh-branded items and other fancy goods.
Having identified how important the internet would be to guarantee the success of his business, Mr Duckworth began building his internet presence in 2001, through his online shops. As a result of his early internet endeavours, he has gathered thousands of customers from all corners of the world, with people from as far as New Zealand, Japan and Australia buying his products.
Duckworths has just been given an award for its customer service, having achieved a flawless 100% customer satisfaction rating across over 3000 reviewing customers. The prestigious award comes from Internet giant Feefo, the online trading equivalent of TripAdvisor who gather feedback form the worlds most trusted brands.
Mr Duckworth has said that much of the credit for their online success should go to Llandudno based business, Livetech Digital Creative Agency, who encouraged him to begin an online shop and build his business presence across the internet. Livetech still manage the Duckworth’s website and have put to use search engine optimisation strategies to keep Duckworth’s website high in Google’s rankings.
The success that Mr Duckworth has enjoyed has meant that half of the business’ entire turnover now comes from internet sales. The global honour makes perfect timing for the business’ birthday, making an excellent present for Mr Duckworth and his wife, Catherine. The pair bought the shop on Abergele Road in Colwyn Bay 30 years ago, following Mr Duckworth enjoying a spell of working in retail under the Co-operative Society. Mr Duckworth has a strong tradition of offering the customer an excellent service, as the family business actually goes as far back as 1926, when it was established in Blackburn, Lancashire as a chemist.
Mr Duckworth said “Selling online was one of the best decisions I have ever made so I will always be grateful to Paul Levy, from Livetech.
“After the move online, the business just grew and grew each year – turnover doubled in the first several years.
“To get in early was good because obviously, the earlier you get in, the better the domain name you can get and you get an established customer base as well right from the start.
“Ecommerce has transformed the business. I would say that if I hadn’t done it, I probably wouldn’t be here now so it certainly saved my business and it’s given me a comfortable living.
“I have two websites, one for tobacco, cigars, pipes and the accessories and the other one is where we sell a lot of Welsh clothing, rugby shirts and that sort of thing.
“The internet gives you a shop window that gives you access to anywhere in the world and of course it’s open 24 hours a day.
“It’s nice to come in in the morning and find that you’ve taken quite a bit of money already before you’ve started the day.
“I was extremely proud to be awarded Gold Merchant status which is based on a customer feedback programme – I’ve got about 3,000 feedbacks now with 100 per cent satisfaction.
“We pride ourselves on giving the best service that we can. We do make mistakes and, if we do, then we’re keen to put it right.
“We did have one customer that did give us some negative feedback over something. We very quickly put it right for him and he reversed it. He was more than happy.
“Paul Levy was the person who helped me get into ecommerce 15 years ago and his support and expertise has been a key part of our success.
“We tend to meet a couple of times a year to discuss our strategy moving forward and he’s always given superb advice – and it’s obviously working.
Paul Levy, the Managing Director of Livetech, was equally proud.
Mr Levy said “It’s been great to work with Chris right from when we chatted about the idea 15 years ago. It’s really evident that Chris knows about dealing with people and he’s got an affinity for service.
“What he’s done is take good old-fashioned customer service values that he does face to face and he’s not changed anything. The stuff he does online is exactly the same.
“It’s a winning formula. I guess it’s what makes him stand out from those that just do it on an opportunist basis, just doing it for the money.
“Our involvement on a basic level is about all the technicalities of building a website, from the web post to the email systems, the shopping cart, the part of the website that takes the orders and gets paid.
“The technology of the website is a given. You also have to make sure the front of the website is easy to use for the customer and that’s always a challenge.
“But that’s no good unless we deliver people to the website so we’ve had a lot of success over the years in getting top search engine positions for Chris.
“Chris has been an internet retail pioneer and he’s got a lot to teach other retailers, people who look to be going into this area.
“Colwyn Bay is right for this type of business because the rents tend to be a bit lower here. There are big opportunities here.”