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A day of Space and Smells

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Chris Knight

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SPACE,

Yesterday Axminster sent me a discount voucher for goods sold from their new store in Sittingbourne so I naturally had to go and investigate. It has in fact been open for about three months according to an employee there but It is plainly not yet fully up to speed. For a start there is still lots of empty space - it is a big place! It's a new building, easy to find, not far off the M2. I have no real idea but it felt something like half to two thirds the size of the place Axminster had their last show, ( main hall only). The man said that at present they have 60% of the catalogue on display but are aiming to have 95% in due course.

There is ample room to walk around the machinery but, as far as I could see, no facility to test it. A few of the displays are clearly lifted en-masse from the old Faversham store and not yet updated/organised so just wandering around can be confusing if looking for a particular item. Fortunately the staff who seem friendly and helpful seem to know where things are.

A big drawback is that there is no customer loo. In the old place - although not dedicated to Axminster there was a handy facility - especially when you have just driven forty miles on too many cups of coffee! I spent enough to use my voucher (only valid if you spend more than £100!) and I was allowed to use the employee loo - very clean and new!


I was disappointed to see a wall full of TOOLBANK stuff (maybe Axminster own them by now? :roll: whereas the LN planes and such like were confined to a small unmarked display with the odd Clifton thrown in for luck. Offsetting this was a fairly complete collection of carving chisels from Henry Taylor and Two Cherries - with a few Flexcut thrown in for luck this time. However they were so messily arranged that you'd have to have the patience of a saint to seek out a particular chisel

I left feel somewhat saddened. Axminster have plainly been enormously successful and I cannot therefore argue that they got their business model wrong or that their strategy is at fault. However, I know I have spent thousands with them, so in part it is my purchases that helped them on their way. But the nature of the business has changed a lot since I started buying from them. They no longer represent a specialist source who sell the stuff I can't live without. They are plainly surfing a low-cost approach (inches above the run-of the mill competition and occasionally getting very wet) and their display is not aimed at me at all whereas it used to be. On my first visit to their Devon store, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

SMELLS

On the way back from Axminster, I stopped at Timberline in Tonbridge. If you have never been there, do yourself a favour and make a pilgrimage. It has the most amazing collection of exotic woods to be seen anywhere.

Today I needed a bit of ebony stringing for inlay but as usual I really get off on the smell and the sight of so much magnificent wood.

As you walk in the door you are greeted by a stack of Rosewood 12 feet high. OK so that's boring old Sonokeling but what is this around the corner? Oh that is quartersawn Indian Rosewood. Don't trip over the blackwood and watch out that cuban mahogany (seriously!!) doesn't fall on your head.

It does smell - like nothing you have ever experienced unless you have been there. A day in the workshop and all evening I smell of ash or oak or whatnot. A visit to Timberline and I smell like a visitor to a Turkish massage parlour - or something.
 

tim

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They are plainly surfing a low-cost approach (inches above the run-of the mill competition and occasionally getting very wet) and their display is not aimed at me at all whereas it used to be
Couldn't agree with you more. I think that their white branded stuff is often pretty ropey -like the Ferm (Screwfix) stuff. The difference is that the Ferm stuff is at least priced like its 'once only' although that is not a reason to buy it.

I really get off on the smell
Careful! If anyone saw the 'Tribe' documentary the other day, they may have noticed that the sap the presenter was snorting to enter the Shaman world was from none other than the Virola tree.

Maybe this is how Chris finds his muse for all his inspirational carving. 8) :lol: :shock: :lol: 8) 8)

Cheers

Tim
 

Alf

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waterhead37":2cx4lfok said:
On my first visit to their Devon store, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
The new one or the old one? The old one at least had some character, but the new one has neither that or enough space IMO. I was disappointed. I'm afraid I have to agree that they seem to be dropping the ball a little; I would guess, like Record before them, they can run like that for a while on their previously earnt good name before the effects on business kick in. :(

Timberline sounds great. I was going to go there when I last visited my brother, but bandsaw hunting was the priority at the time. Next time, though...

Cheers, Alf
 

StevieB

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I was in the Sittingboune store, not long after it opened and before the heating had been installed! (well, I only live 5 miles away so it was rude not to :wink: ) I agree that the new store seems a little.. different compared to the old one at Faversham, but it must be 15 times the size. Its also fairly difficult to make a metal industrial building look anything other than a metal industrial building :)

I dont know what axminsters core customer base is, but I suspect that it is not the hobbyist popping in for a LN #4 and a box of spax screws. It is more likely the builder/trade and more recently industrial workshop type customer. This is evidenced by the display of LOTS of Rojek equipment on the floor of the new store. With the best will in the world I cannot see many hobbyists or one man businesses affording this kind of kit or having space to house it. I asked the chap behind the counter if they sold much and he said they cannot get it in fast enough. They had several orders awaiting delivery and back orders pending from the supplier.

I think therefore that the shift to the new store is a sound business move from their point of view and caters to the core of their customer base. Lets face it, most of the public go to B&Q. At the top end of the scale trade and industry does not. Sandwiched in a thin layer between these two are the keen amature or self employed woodworker who wants quality at an affordable price. Trouble is this section of the customer base is very small.

I agree some of the axminster white range is not much better than the other mail order equivalents, but is it simply catering to the new net savy generation who are starting to look around outside the local DIY store for what they percieve as a better product/deal? If it comes from a proper tool store then it must be better than the B&Q equivalent they think :?

I tend to do most of my browsing through the catalogue, then go to the store for a look at what I am interested in. I agree a test area would be great though, and perhaps somewhere to get a coffee while browsing :lol:

Steve.
 

Mcluma

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You see, I am not that bothered by a store, I have found out that internet shopping is less pressure, i mostly know what i want, and then buy were it is the cheapest, wich in most cases is Axminster, I buy from them on a weekly/monthly basis, when i need a tool i buy it, and you can really rely on them to have it in stock and next day delivery.

In the past i did like to browse around, but with this more hectic life, i fully rely on internet/catalogue shopping

I read a lot of forums were the users is more knowledged and honest then the salesperson in the shop, and that counts more then the best sales story in the world :wink:
 
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