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Retail Therapy

18 January 2016

Director Peter Lee talks us through the plans to revamp the retail areas at Oxford United

Sunday's match programme featured the following interview with Director Peter Lee about the Club Shop and the retail area of the club. We thought it made interesting reading for fans, and so the article is produced in full below. Peter was talking to Chris Williams.

Although events on the pitch have rightly caught the eye this season, especially the FA Cup win over Swansea, there has also been a quiet revolution happening over at the club shop. Director Peter Lee has overseen a new direction and a change of approach for the retail element of the U’s, an area which is vital for any club at this level.

“I didn’t mean to get quite so involved” Peter told me as we chatted in the shop this week. “I came in to the club because I was impressed by Darryl’s plans for it, and maybe hoping that my experience in retail could be of some use. But there has been such progress at the club this season and Darryl’s mantra of “everything must be World class” applies to everything we do. I was asked to come up with a plan and recruit a team to help us achieve that in the shop and retail, and over the last couple of months we have started to put that into place.

Claire Theobald has joined the team as Head of Retail while Peter Birch has been recruited after working in the busy Superdry store in Covent Garden. Claire was previously Mark Ashton’s PA so has been at the club for some time.

“Claire knows the club and the area and has been a massive help already” Peter says “while Pete has fantastic experience and energy. They want to build something special here and with Charlotte Newbold already working in the shop we feel we have a great foundation to build from.”

For most fans the location of the shop has often raised eyebrows. Is there scope for the shop to be within the stadium?

“Ideally yes, but currently that can’t happen” Peter says. “I think there was confusion among fans when the Club Shop moved from its usual place in the Ozone complex. I understand why that decision was taken, but we think it needs to be on a permanent location, and also more available to fans. For example we have taken a decision to open after games as well as before, which has rarely happened here. We tried it against Swansea and it was as busy in the hour after the game as it was before the match.

“We also want to improve the stock and the service that fans can expect. For example, the shop has never offered shirt printing while you wait. That just seemed odd to me; it happens at every other club, so why can’t we do it here? Fans don’t mind waiting if they know they can take a printed shirt away with them.

“Also, we want to be faster and more dynamic. Kemar Roofe scored two last week and it was a great game so we have looked at two t-shirt designs, one with Kemar and the other with all the back pages.  Because of my printing facility off site I know we can print relatively low numbers, quite quickly and on good quality stock, so that is another thing we will be looking to make happen.”

Peter will be a familiar figure to fans from the Manor days- his Bogarts video store was right next to the old ground while his Music Market record stores in the centre of town provided the soundtrack to some great years at the club. He understands the importance of communication with the fans.

“Totally” he nods in agreement.”You can’t rely on familiarity; fans knowing where the shop is and what the kit looks like. You need to keep things in the public eye and have offers and interesting ideas. Tell you what Chris- the three of us are around the ground today. Anyone who comes and has a chat with us and brings this programme along can have ten percent off in the shop!”

Sounds like a deal to me, although I am no expert in retail. I’m more a website sort of person. I wonder whether the online presence is vital to a shop these days?

“Extremely important” he tells me. “We will change how the online shop looks and feels and make it much more user friendly. It may take a while to get it completely how we want it but you have to be easy to use  and reliable on the website, and also try and use social media to keep fans up to date with what we have available.”

Surely, at our level, the home and away kits are the two most important decisions to get right?

“We have already started the planning for next season” Peter says. “The initial designs are in and we have talked them through with a fans , players and Management who all love them. You need a kit that fans can identify with- I think the Ox head logo that Desmond Morris designed is an iconic element of any Oxford shirt. I can’t say too much about the kit for next season at the moment but I can promise to be open and approachable as we build towards the launch in the summer.”
 As we talk two customers  are buying beanie hats ahead of today’s game.

“I stood at the back of the South Stand on Sunday” Peter says “and was looking at the number of those hats in front of me. There were three guys having a chat, all wearing the same hats, and I thought then that we must be on the right lines. We have introduced a wider range of designs and styles, got them at the right price, and the rising number of Oxford hats you see at every game shows that we are doing something right.

“Now that we have the new team in place in the shop we will work together, work with the fans, and provided the team perform as well in the second half of the season as they did in the first then we can hopefully enjoy a successful 2016 on and off the field.”

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