Meet the retailer: Sam Turner and Sons

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How can traditional family businesses manage the change in the digital world? We spoke to Charlie Turner, director of Sam Turner and Sons, a family business built on family values and traditions fundament with ecommerce twist.

Speaking to Tamebay, Charlie Turner, director of Sam Turner told us how the company moved online without losing the sight of the uniqueness of the family business.

Who are you?

Sam Turner and Sons are a family-owned business in North of Yorkshire. The company specialises in selling farm and horticultural supplies, garden machinery and country clothing.  It now sees the fourth generation running the business both online and in bricks and mortar stores.

The company moved online in the late 90s when their farmer customer base was declining. The move aimed at adapting to the beginning of the change which saw consumers moving online to discover and shop for goods. The introduction of the online platform opened new customer prospects to the business.

Charlie says that traditional businesses don’t have one leader. When the company was established, two brothers had an equal say in the future direction of the company. It is not who gets to take a decision, but what is best for the business that takes precedence.

While family businesses can be slow to react to change compared to commercial companies, they are quick at the same time to make a decision. An initiative doesn’t need to go through a hierarchy of management. A feeling of involvement is vital; whether it is with long-standing staff member or family. It adds an element of awareness for future decisions, plans and vision.

Sam Turner and Sons on selling via Amazon

Charlie says that selling on Amazon is a twofold feeling. He says that communication with the marketplace often feels robotic. As a seller, he doesn’t feel looked after by the marketplace. It is the returns procedures and the inability to understand sellers’ perspective is what stands as a disadvantage for Amazon. In particular, he says that the business loses money on returns created as a result of customers’ misuse of a product. It is the ‘customer’s always right’ notion that puts sellers in an uncomfortable position.

However, there’re also advantages. Charlie says that Amazon opened an opportunity for his business to sell to worldwide shoppers, which something he wouldn’t be able to achieve without the marketplace. He says that people would buy everything now from Amazon because of their trusted reputation.

When asked what advice he can give to family business sellers, he simply put it down to embracing the change without sacrificing the family business personality.

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