A Family-Run Appliance Store in Sheffield
Sat proudly in the bustling Woodseats area of Sheffield, there’s no easier way to find appliances than at Williams Electrical Shops. With a sparkling reputation in Sheffield since 1905, this independent, family-run store comes out on top of national chains – and has awards to prove it.
Flick through any history book, and you’ll see how much shops can change in a century. It’s no different for Williams, set up in 1905 by Walter ‘Natty’ to sell everything from bikes and toys to car parts and petrol.
Time has made it the electrical shop it is today – but a few things haven’t changed. It’s still managed by dedicated family members, and it still plays an important role in the community.
With a long and fascinating story, we wanted to dig deeper. Fortunately, we’ve had the chance to catch up with Karen the MD (and Walter’s great granddaughter!) to find out what makes Williams such a local treasure.
A Personal Approach
As a family-run business, Williams takes pride in their personal approach. So, what’s their recipe for success? Karen says:
“Being a family-run business has shaped and improved the store, as it stays true to its original principles. We offer great value products with exceptional personal service. And, the older generations of staff bring a wealth of experience to the table.”
Williams has a track record for long-serving staff – family and employees alike. Walter’s daughter Phyllis didn’t retire until she was 83, and worked at the store for an impressive 68 years – Howard, Karen’s father, also worked as long!
Peter Barber, who joined as an Apprentice, retired in 2013 after an enjoyable 48 years of service. If expertise and personal service are what you’re after, then Williams is the place to go.
Superb Customer Service
This family store offers fantastic customer service, and a completely different experience to the national chains:
“Put simply, we treat customers exactly how we would like to be treated. We don’t have a one-size-fits-all strategy and treat every customer as the individual they are. Customers always come before sales targets, which allows us to match their needs.”
In a sea of national sales-driven shops, Williams swims above the competition! Rather than focusing on sales pitches, the staff make sure that the customers’ needs are met first:
“We ask the customer questions, rather than talking through ‘techy’ specifications to make the product ‘fit’. We never recommend a product that doesn’t suit what the customer needs, and want the customer to be as happy with their purchase as possible.”
In fact, Karen says Williams is Sheffield’s number one destination for electricals and appliances. And why? Because they offer the whole customer service package, are competitive on price and come head and shoulders above other stores.
When it comes to challenging deliveries and aftercare, you’ll also find Williams going the extra mile. They’re happy to discuss simple issues over the phone, and still answer the phone in person (a rarity nowadays)! Whatever the customer’s concern, they are sure to have a solution:
“We offer everything from a standard drop off, to a custom installation for Audio Visual products. We can also chip out walls for cables and re-drill holes in kitchen cabinets.”
With a customer-focussed approach, the store stands out for all of the right reasons, always going above and beyond expectations:
“We had a returning customer who wanted a particular LG heat pump tumble dryer. It was only available to certain retailers, and we weren’t one of them. However, we managed to source one from one of our friendly dealers and drove a few hundred miles to collect it. The customer was over the moon and sent us chocolates and a card to say thank you. Other customers regularly buy us chocolates at Christmas and Easter which means the world to us.”
They even shared a few reviews from some happy customers:
“I would like to thank Karen and Richard for being so helpful, polite and understanding today. Fantastic customer service. I have been very impressed.” (Garry, Rachel & Ewan Furniss)
Another customer had a tricky task for the team – who had no issues solving the problem:
“For several months, I have struggled to get a new fridge for my built-in kitchen. From talking to John in the shop to the excellent tradesman who fitted the fridge with his assistant, I have nothing but praise. It was not an easy job to find a fridge that would fit the space, but Williams succeeded where others did not even want to know.” (Barry Anderton)
It’s clear that Williams has a fantastic relationship with its local customers, driven by the store’s enthusiastic approach and personal dedication.
Core of the Community
With its glowing reputation in the Sheffield community, Williams has many long-standing customers, and is a firm favourite for families in the area:
“We have many customer relationships dating back to the 1950s or before, including Nellie Bledan, Alan Platt and his father before him. Others go back over 30 to 40 years and regularly come in to buy something while reminiscing about buying their first bike from Williams!”
Williams has always been heavily involved in community projects – in the mid-60s, the founder Walter even ran the church choir and his grandson Howard was The Boys Brigade leader!
So, what do Williams get involved in today?
“We have sponsored many youth teams in various sports – from the Sheffield Water polo Monsters to Norton Woodseats football club. We also get involved with the local Woodseats Festival every year, where we donate to the raffle and dress the shop for the event.”
Williams even offers a valuable work experience opportunity for one lucky student each year. They need to be quick, though – the position for 2017 was snapped up way before Christmas 2016!
We also spoke to Karen about Williams’ charity work and were really touched by their involvement. They support as many charitable events as possible, including local schools and care homes – charities supported include Mission Christmas Cash for Kids, Sheffield Children’s Hospital, Barnardo’s and the British Heart Foundation. If you ever pop into the shop, you’re sure to find collection tins on the cash desk.
One charity event particularly close to their hearts is Ride for Eric, a bike ride in memory of a customer:
“Ride for Eric was set up four years ago – a customer of ours, Eric Codling, was sadly killed by a drunk driver while out on a Sunday morning bike ride. My husband Richard has entered and completed the ride several times, and we always attend and donate prizes for the most sponsorship money raised. The ride raises money for a local cancer charity, and a charity that helps disabled children ride specially adapted bicycles.”
Karen’s husband also took part in Tour de Yorkshire this April to raise money for the local children’s hospital. This truly shows how much these people value their community, and it’s a great way for them to give something back.
Independent and Proud
What else helps communities? Independence – and with larger online chains moving into brick and mortar stores, it’s more important than ever that we show our support. Plus, as an independent retailer, Williams aren’t held back by national chain’s rules:
“Being independent means we can react and evolve quicker than the multinationals. We can also drive new technologies, as we can demonstrate what they can do.”
Still embracing their independence, Williams has also evolved with the online shopping world – and while online sales have undeniably increased, their online presence has also helped store footfall. Ultimately, customers still want to see, hear and touch products to get a feel for them.
Being a Euronics member has been a great help in accessing these products, and Williams really feel like they have reaped the benefits:
“This has greatly enhanced our business. Not only does it allow us access to a greater portfolio of products at competitive prices, but it also helps us reach new potential customers.”
We’re glad to see our brand is helping develop family businesses! A popular local shop paired with a national membership makes a dream team, and its success hasn’t gone unnoticed.
If returning customers and gifts aren’t enough to prove customer joy, Williams is even certified for providing a top-class service. They won Samsung Store of The Year 2016 and have Blue Ribbon Partner status. The prestigious award is only given out to those displaying high standards of product knowledge.
So, how did they beat competition around the UK? We asked Karen:
“Whilst we faced very strong competition in the final, our meticulous attention to detail ensured we came out on top. We also love to create exciting shop window displays.”
As part of the brilliant customer service, all staff members are savvy about the stock. Products are helpfully demonstrated on the shop floor, so it’s important for them to learn about all the features:
“Our staff are very passionate about wanting to know the products inside out. They have regular sessions with manufacturers, and we give training on new products to refresh our team on all the features. They also complete online training, such as the Samsung Academy, which is helpful for keeping up with the latest developments.”
If you want a true product representation, then Williams is the place to go. With a whole team of knowledge behind them, they’re sure to guide you to what you really need!
With an award-winning service that keeps customers coming back, the only way is up for Williams. There are certainly no plans to slow down, and they have already paved the way for development. As an independent retailer, they think the best way forward is to find their own niche:
“Our model mix will change, as it has done in the past few years. We will also specialise in certain areas, as we think this is the most helpful for customers, and the key to success.”
Now that’s the kind of industry awareness that keeps businesses going for centuries! We have no doubt that Williams will continue to be a Sheffield success story, and we look forward to seeing them evolve with the community in years to come.
Williams Electrical Shops has top-class customer service that’s won them awards. If you need assistance with electronics or appliances in the Sheffield area, you can find the store here. Or, if you’d prefer to shop from the comfort of your home, take a look at the Euronics range online.