Quality of service, not just product, will protect specialists from the grocers and the web.

This year, Comet celebrates its 75th anniversary and I want to take a look at how the company has reached this milestone and provide an insight into what it takes to nurture a 75-year-old brand along a journey from being value to valued.

At the heart of our transformation there is a basic, stubborn, almost teenage refusal that defines our brand and that will define our future. It’s a refusal to let the electricals market drift unwittingly into the hands of the grocers. It’s a determination to set out a model of specialist electricals retailing that puts quality of advice and quality of service right at the heart of what we do.

It’s that ethos that sets us apart in a tough market – that’s why I am sceptical when people say to me that our market will be swallowed up by grocers and online outfits.

I am proud, and rightly so, of our 75-year heritage, but I realise that there are still many who assume that Comet’s definition of sophistication is 101 different ways to say lowest price – this couldn’t be further from the truth.

We understand that a happy and satisfied customer is one who will come back and we understand that loyalty like that has to be earned and respected.

Customers will not come back just because the product is good. We have to offer more. Customers will come back because their experience was good. So we not only provide a personable service, we provide one based on a foundation of in-depth knowledge.

Success in retail is about innovation and evolution and I am proud that Comet has a strong track record of transforming itself through its people. When we were stuck in our old-style warehouse retailing mentality in the 1960s, one bright spark on a Comet shopfloor asked the question: “What if we take our products out of their boxes?” That simple foresight sent our sales soaring 200 per cent and set the scene for today’s shopping experience.

We stand or fall by our reputation as electricals specialists and we deliver our brand through our people. Our staff go to one in 10 homes every year – delivering and installing products, helping customers and sorting even the smallest problem. We don’t farm out jobs like this, as we are investing in our customers and their relationship with us. Again, it’s all part of our mission to take Comet to the position of a valued, not a value brand.

These examples serve to highlight that I truly mean it when I say that the right people with the right skills and the right knowledge are the key to our success and the success of any retailer.

Human capital is everybody’s greatest asset and, with the right people, we will be ready and able to rise to the new roles and market challenges that face us in the future.

Hugh Harvey, managing director, Comet