Ros Windsor, Paxton & Whitfield: “Maintaining an icon”

23 January 2019, 11:25 AM
  • Ros Windsor, managing director of Paxton & Whitfield, tells us what it takes to maintain the reputation and standing of an iconic British business

When it comes to cheese, Paxton & Whitfield is famous for being an expert cheesemonger with over 200 years’ experience in selling artisan cheese. Today we have five shops, two in London, one in each of the historic cities of Bath and Stratford-upon-Avon and an ever-expanding virtual shop that is based at our Bourton-on-the-Water warehouse. We also wholesale to many of the finest restaurants, particularly in London, and to other retailers in the UK and overseas who want to sell our cheese and other branded lines.

We are a Royal Warrant holding company, currently holding two Royal Warrants – one to Her Majesty the Queen and the other to HRH The Prince of Wales. We were granted our first Warrant by Queen Victoria in 1850.

To begin with you have to be clear on what has kept you in business for the last 200+ years and ensure that you continue to deliver these things consistently in all your activities, since these are the factors that your customers value, and it’s the customers that keep you in business! For Paxtons this has been quality – in our products and service. It has also been about being leaders not followers, and this has also enabled us to maintain our reputation and to innovate and change through the years.

Quality product: From the quality of artisan cheese we source from cheesemakers through to the high level of care we put into how our cheeses are delivered to our customers we always strive for the best. We are nothing without the cheese that we carefully source and stock as well as the fine foods and accessories we buy and/or develop with producers. Yes, we’re expected to sell the traditional British and Continental European cheeses but without new products to entice customers we are not developing, so stocking new cheeses by established and new cheesemakers gives us more to offer customers.

Quality service: I’m passionate about this as it is one of the most important things you need to consider in retail. You give good customer service, your customers will remember it and want to come back. Bad service and forget it. This is why we invest in staff training and recruitment. You need good training and a good team to maintain these standards. This differentiates businesses even more in the internet age.

Lead not follow, innovate and change: As with any retailer who has been trading for many years, we have to recognise that our customers’ values and tastes change, and will continue to do so. We endeavour to stay abreast of this by looking at trends in sales and the industry, trends in consumer habits and lifestyle so that we’re creating new ways to appeal to customers whilst valuing what we do well already. We were one of the first cheese business to have a web shop, even before the millennium; we brought wedding cheesecakes to the market; we’re innovating with new products all the time. Currently it’s about the appeal of ‘flexitarianism’ and so we are looking at this trend and how we can deliver in that area.

It’s not just about innovating within the business but also within the industry. As a founding partner of the Academy of Cheese, the educational programme bringing knowledge and career development to the industry, and as an accredited training partner we have so far helped over 150 people in the industry and passionate consumers learn more about cheese. We believe that the more people know about artisan cheese the better they become as sales people or as customers.

Maintaining a historical business’ reputation so that it is relevant to consumers and can respond to the current climate takes work but it’s work that is challenging and ultimately really rewarding. You can’t rest on your laurels – you have to use your heritage, today and the future to help maintain and build on your success.

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