There is much more to a positive shopping experience than a good-looking shop, as a visit to Aldo east of Oxford Circus last week showed.

Walking into the store in search of some suede cleaner/protector for a pair of shoes, it was apparent that this is a mid-market proposition and that the surroundings had been designed accordingly.

Nothing wrong with this, it’s what Oxford Street, for the most part, is all about. It does not however mark the store out as being markedly different from its competitors.

Help at hand

Standing in the middle of the ground floor (the floor for women’s shoes – men’s are in the basement), your correspondent must have had a bemused look that was recognised by the two sharply dressed men who were having a conversation. One of them stopped talking, walked over briskly and asked if he could help.

“The man asked for one of the shoes (they were being worn) and proceeded to demonstrate how cloth and spray could be made to work”

Upon being appraised of the shopping mission, he walked to the payment desk and returned with a packet of damp cloths and a spray that he said would do the job.

Fair play. The need had been met and the obvious next step would have been to make payment. Instead of this, however, the man asked for one of the shoes (they were being worn) and proceeded to demonstrate how cloth and spray could be made to work. It did work and the level of service was impressive.

“Genuine help, offered spontaneously, is what service means. It is easily rendered and all too often totally absent in UK stores”

Heading for the cash desk therefore, I joined the queue and he gave the items in question to a member of staff and told me that I’d be “looked after”. A couple of minutes later it became apparent that the shoppers already at the cash desk were engaged in some pretty complex transactions and that more time might be involved.

Top service

At this point, the same man returned and, spotting the problem, served me and I was free to go. There is almost nothing about what took place that could be faulted and a lot to be happy about. This is what service is about and Aldo leapt from being a fair-to-middling Oxford Street shoe retailer to an emporium that might put many further up the price league to shame.

Store design works well initially, but when coupled with exemplary service that makes the recipient feel valued, the route to loyalty and profit becomes clear. Genuine help, offered spontaneously, is what service means. It is easily rendered and all too often totally absent in UK stores.