By JONATHAN FINE
A few months ago I reported on catalogue giant Argos’s decisive move into supermarkets and said dentists looking for a break could do worse than harness this cheap space and massive footfall.
Well, Cherie Blair turns out to have been doing, or trying, just this for the past three years, although the results are a sobering reminder that in retail you can never, ever, neglect detail.
When Downing Street’s former first lady launched Mee Healthcare she envisioned more than 100 outlets in supermarkets within five years. She has achieved just 11 so far…
The clinics were conceived as boutiquey one-stop shops where busy shoppers could get their ears, eyes and teeth checked and treated under their catchily named Hear Mee and See Mee brands.
Mee Healthcare hasn’t opened a new clinic for 15 months and at least two stores are making losses of £500k, with umbrella company Worldwide Health and Wellness Centres Limited showing a loss of £7.7m on its profit and loss account. Fewer than half of the 11 clinics opened provide dental services.
So why the missed targets and multi-million pound losses? Well, it looks like a failure of bread and butter retailing – the opticians stocked high end frames without enough variation in design and price to suite the footfall, and the wrong pricing structure precluded sales, which precluded rollout of more clinics.
This can’t be symptomatic of the market because other companies are booming. Centre For Dentistry has 25 practices in Sainsbury’s and has agreed a substantial rollout over the next 24 months. Its proposition is outstanding value for money and ease of access with seven day opening. Not surprisingly its busiest days are Saturdays and Sundays.
It just shows you – retail is detail!
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