F orget ’looks aren’t everything’. Forget ’beauty is only skin deep’. And you can forget ’it’s what’s inside that counts’. In retail, looks are - almost - everything. You could have irresistible bakery products, but if no-one comes into the shop, then no one’s going to know.

But it’s easy to create a decent look, right? Wrong! Walk down any high street and you will notice the difference between those bakery operators that merely limp on and those that thrive and grow, even when the products themselves are no better.

The first step to getting your look right is nailing your brand credentials. Many people think branding is a quick flick of the wrist, a scroll down the font list on the PC and ’Bob’s your uncle’, a brand is born. If only. There are no short-cuts, no magic wands or ’just add water’ solutions. Instead, there are many questions that first need to be answered - who, what, why, where, and the inevitable how much?

A few years ago, retail baker Bob Mortimer, who has nine shops in Dorset and Somerset, decided to drop the ’traditional’ face of Mortimers in favour of what was seen as a vital new trend in snacking and sandwich bars, and Bob’s Sandwich Bar was born.

But the image failed to capture the public imagination and, despite decent products being offered, the revamp did nothing to enhance sales. The formula simply did not work. Fortunately, Bob was forward-thinking and learned from his errors; instead of reverting back to the old so-so formula, he sought professional help.

Following some local research, talking to customers in a number of locations, it became obvious that Mortimer’s customers had lost faith in the offer and it was seen as a poor relation to major brands like Subway, Starbucks and even Tesco. The product itself was devoid of brand credibility.

Mortimer realised this and the result was more than just a facelift; it also needed some reconstructive surgery, a few implants and a little nip’n’tuck - plus some pain in the wallet. The shop needed a fresher façade and much improved lighting to invite people into a more streamlined interior.


Inspired by their new look, they quickly took stock of what they were selling and soon developed some new products, such as brownies and cheese straws, alongside the established ones. They developed new sandwich fills and improved their baguettes, using French flour. And they commissioned imaginative posters and POS, to deliver a quality message.

So convincing was the new marketing approach - no more PC-crafted posters Blu-Tacked to the window - that many customers thought the products "tasted so much better than the old stuff". In fact, much of it was the "old stuff", just presented better.

A little over a year since the first make-over, Bob and son Richard (MD) have had time to measure the results. "Turnover on last year is up by a minimum of 20% week-in week-out and two shops are up 50-60% weekly," says Richard. "The speed at which the refits have taken place is testament to the immediate effect it had on our business. All the family and staff have been re-invigorated with the re-branding and this has improved customer relations and, ultimately, sales."

The Mortimers are real bakers, building on traditional values and facing up to the realities of being a retailer first and a baker second. How you present yourself, your product and your message is vital. Talk to customers, connect with them, woo them and respect that they have a choice. Great products demand great delivery and anything less deserves to fail.