Here at Spring, we’re super happy to announce that we’ll be working with family-owned outdoor retailer Trekitt. Hurrah! These guys are the epitome of – what we think – is the ultimate outdoor retail experience. We’re not just talking the best kit. We’re talking objective advice and sharing of knowledge that is a rare find in digital retailing these days. So, it was a no brainer when we were debating who to catch up with for our first newsletter of 2021. Trekitt of course. Hot on the heels of an awesome 2020 (yep, we really did say awesome 2020) Trekitt is a good news story. Let’s face it, we need those at the moment. We grilled Paul Trepte – one half of the brother duo behind the brand – on what made 2020 so special and this is what he said …
Trekitt had an awesome 2020. Lots of companies didn’t. What were you doing that made it a success?
“Trekitt felt the rightest it’s felt for the last 30 years. It was like a switch flicked. We’ve worked hard these past five years. A long time has been spent building our teams, getting them to meet demand, so we don’t always have to play catch up. The weak areas were targeted and made strong. We trained. And then Covid kicked in and we were ready. As a result, everything came together. The team was settled. They were motivated about the growth of the company but more than that, there was a real sense of maturity and stability. Consequently, Trekitt had the right number of well trained, experienced, dedicated, smooth operators.”
“Rightest.” Great word, says it all. You’ve learned a lot over the last five years, clearly, but did you learn something special in 2020? We learned that we have a tendency to eat too many biscuits when working from home. Not very useful. What about you?
“To fully accept that you can’t do it all and to implicitly trust the team that you’ve built. Because of the change in working practices, you’ve got to let people just get on with it and learn to do that properly and fully. As a result, I’m always saying to my team that the best managers make themselves redundant. My job is to just keep steering the ship.”
So many people have a problem with delegation, that’s a skill in itself. Talking of delegation, as a bunch of ladies here at Spring HQ we were impressed to see Trekitt’s female side flourish last year. That was down to delegation wasn’t it?
“It was. Hannah has been largely responsible for that. She’s an activist (she’s tied in with a lot of women’s campaigns), she’s ‘right on’. (Do people say that anymore?!). And full of excitement and energy. Because a lot of buying and ranging is done by men to men, we decided to bring in Hannah. She went on ranging trips and would rifle through the rails highlighting colours and styles that the men hadn’t considered. Because she’s cool too she was up-to-date on trends. Hannah’s also been doing our YouTube videos, presenting the women’s versions of the men’s jackets and she’s very well-liked by our community. Consequently, she’s made a real difference to our wider market. To summarise, we tried and did some very basic things and they worked.”
Wow, we want a Hannah, she sounds great! We think she’ll grow that female market even more this year. What other plans do you have to keep your success going?
“We’re employing Spring PR to ensure our continued success! (And, may we add, the team is super excited to be working with you guys. We promise we’ll do you proud!). We’re also going to look to further develop our marketing and customer support. As 90% of our customers are remote, we’re going to employ more people in customer service and train them up so that our remote customers get the same level of service, knowledge, and experience as if they were visiting the shop. The next stage for marketing is to bring in an in-house marketing professional.”
We guess you don’t have enough family to fill that role too! With you, your brother, your wife at the helm and your children pitching in it’s a proper family affair. We want to know what it’s like working with your brother?
“It’s great. We’ve worked together an awfully long time and have been through some turbulence. We had a hideous 2006 and before that our relationship wasn’t very good. Following our ‘annus horribilus’ he realigned his chakras or something and realised I was a great brother after all! It’s good and I love him to bits. We support each other and there’s never any real conflict or animosity. In retailing, you have a cynicism that it will all fall apart tomorrow. I wake up every morning and pinch myself. Because I thoroughly enjoy my job and feel blessed and fortunate to be part of this Trekitt thing.”
Love that ‘annus horribilus’ is a phrase in our everyday vernacular these days. Thanks Queen. Your brother/brother relationship sounds perfect. What about working with your wife?
“Fantastic! Both Mark and I rely on Fiona hugely. She’s an incredibly skillful and talented accountant. In fact, she’s the unsung bedrock of this business. She’s kept us on good terms with our suppliers through the worst and the best times. Fiona’s diligent and accurate. A bloody machine. She’s incredible. Our Chairman, Anton, often reminds us that it’s the Fiona show, not Paul and Mark’s. And because she’s cautious and prudent, there’s a really good dynamic between the three of us: Anton “Mr Experience”, Mark “Entrepreneur” and me “People Person”.
The Fiona show, that’s praise indeed! Do you think there’s a future for bricks and mortar retailing? For the record we think there is if done in the way that you guys do it (and we’re not just saying that!). What do you reckon?
“There’s definitely a future for bricks and mortar retail. It has to be very specialist, niche, and customer-focused. For that reason, there should be no more piling it high selling it cheap. Significantly no more landfill. It needs knowledge, skills, and experience.
To be successful you have to stay true to your core values: too many people try to be all things to all people. In conclusion, you can’t spread yourself too thin. We have an almighty online business and if the internet was unplugged tomorrow and we had to go back to traditional retailing we wouldn’t do it any differently.
In January 2020 we introduced an appointment system so that we could deliver really bespoke advice based on our knowledge and experience. Because we’d integrated it on the website in preparation for 2020, when Covid hit we were ready. We had to go to appointment only anyway. Our regular customers love it. Our staff love it. Particularly, we’ve got no plonkers nicking stuff or chucking £500 jackets on the floor. Much as I lament the closure of small shops, if they haven’t adapted it’s no surprise. We’ve continued to flourish because we’ve adapted, invested in our team and our customers as well as adopting new processes.
Boy, that appointment system was a fortunate coincidence. You hit the ground running with that one. Do you have any wise words for small businesses that you can share with us for 2021?
“It’s all about your people. Significantly, if you treat your people with respect and dignity; develop and value them, your business will be fine. In summary, just be a nice person. Be a nice boss. Gain the respect of your staff.