When I first started in the business in 1995 we used Ford Escort vans, paper van books to record customer details and we were even the last company in the UK to use a Kalamazoo system to manually record sales. I’d say we were quite introspective at the time with set management style, training and approach. By the time I became national manager we started to make significant changes within the operation of the business – technology became sleeker, we updated sales offices from being sites which were built for horses to new modern offices designed for simple loading, stock management and optimised operation, which in turn improved our customer service – a major part of our brand identity.
As it has done since 1907, the company focused on three values – quality, service and value for money. The brand was seen as one rich in heritage and tradition and as a local company for mums and grandmas. We were, and still are, seen as honest, trustworthy folk who are a personable, friendly and positive part of the local community.
The biggest impact the business faced at this time – and still does to this day – is a change in working patterns, which means our
traditional doorstep service no longer works for as many people. We are living longer, are more active and the once-traditional roles for men and women do not exist anymore, which means that our customer base has changed and a service which relies on people being in the home cannot work in the same way. Similarly, the rise of the ‘big five’ supermarkets has meant buying habits have changed significantly and we had to counteract the potential impact by offering the best quality product, diversifying our range and making sure our service options keep us relevant.
Today we are proud to say we have retained our brand values of quality and service, but freshness in particular has become a big part of who we are and our brand messaging. We’ve even created our own packing process – Leaf Lock True Taste – to ensure we bring our customers the freshest tasting tea on the market. All of our fresh coffee and tea is made in our own factory in the North East and we are a true British business and no matter what economies can be saved by looking outside of the UK, we are so passionate about our roots, quality and innovation that this will never be an option to us and they are key factors in our brand image.
The emergence of our Beverages for Business division and online store has meant we have to appeal to an even wideraudience and our product range has diversified substantially to do this. Our coffee offering, range of fruit and herbal infusions and year-round gift options in particular have seen huge growth. With Ringtons, the challenge as a brand is celebrating our proud heritage whilst making sure our audience know just how much time, effort, passion and expertise is put into everything we do.
We often get asked how our traditional doorstep delivery service is still going in today’s competitive market and the truth is it would be impossible to start from scratch now. We’re fortunate in that we’ve been going for over 100 years and have gradually built up the business to what it is today. We are headed up by the fourth generation of the Smith family and we are lucky enough to have the
luxury of being able to take a long-term view on the business. For us, we see ourselves as custodians of the company and our job is making sure we pass on a business which is futureproofed to the next generation. We will always do the right thing for the customer, our employees and the family to make sure the business will always exist and the brand retains its loyal following.
The future of Ringtons is based very much on convenience and choice – our vision is that no matter where you live, you can get Ringtons delivered in a way which suits you. Our doorstep delivery service makes us who we are and we want to optimise this service to suit a new/changing audience through initiatives such as a subscription service or a live tracking app which offer greater flexibility. We will continue to innovate and expand our range to meet new audiences and consumer demands, in particular the booming coffee market in which our Beverages for Business division is thriving. We ultimately hope the brand is made even stronger through investment in people, relationship building, commitment to quality and convenience.
1995: Area sales manager for Hull
1998: Trouble-shooter in Yorkshire and Lancashire
1999: Southern regional manager
2001: National sales manager
2007: Ringtons brand director
2011: Managing director Ringtons Brand