We’re exposed to a mountain of visual stimuli every day. The power of observation is a great gift and I love walking
around shops.

We’re exposed to a mountain of visual stimuli every day. The power of observation is a great gift and I love walking
around shops. I find it inspiring. I like to see how great retailers practise their art and I learn something new every time
I explore one of their stores. It’s the details that make the biggest difference: the lighting, the colours, the fonts, the visual merchandising and great design.

I love walking around Hollister and, even though I’m never going to buy anything, I’ve noticed it has the best sound system on the high street. Does that make a difference? Yes, I don’t feel like leaving. I love the copywriting that stores such as Ikea and Pret use to entice their customers. I was in heaven when I recently visited a Whole Foods supermarket in the US. I felt like buying things that I didn’t even need - what a truly clever retailer.

I love looking at newspaper adverts. It’s amazing how advertisers manage to grab your attention when they have only a few seconds to do so. On the internet I try to figure out how companies such as Amazon make the experience of visiting their website so much better than their competitors. I love reading books and magazines to learn how people and companies achieve their success.

If there is so much to learn from other successful companies, why don’t more people learn by observing? Do they walk around their world blind?

I’ve visited some appalling companies in my time and I could cry when I see them making simple, basic mistakes. If I asked the senior managers of these companies “How’s business?” they’d probably say it’s a struggle and list all the reasons why - but they’d never admit it’s their fault.

I’ve always wanted to ask senior managers at WHSmith: “What do you see every time you walk around your stores?” I think it’s a visual mess and, other than fixed-price products, everything it sells is available cheaper within walking distance of most stores.

If the managers stood and watched the people walking into their stores at lunchtime they would observe that people buy newspapers and magazines from them - and often food and drink somewhere else.

It’s the same at Argos. It is not a great in-store experience, and did it really need a lengthy review to figure out that the future for it is the internet?

Why do struggling retailers not learn by comparing themselves with other successful retailers? When they go shopping don’t they ever ask themselves: “Why do I shop here? Why do I look forward to coming here?”

We have some fantastic retailers but we also have awful ones. It doesn’t matter what sector your business is in, there’s a lot to learn from good retailers.

The solutions to most of your problems are all around you. Simply open your eyes and take a good look around. Don’t walk around your business with your eyes shut.

Go shopping but don’t buy anything - just look and take it all in, be inquisitive, be curious. You will be amazed at what you’ll see.

  • Ajaz Ahmed founder, Freeserve and Legal365.com