If there is one shop in Woodbridge which everyone knows and has likely visited more than any other, it must be Barretts of Woodbridge.
Standing proudly on The Thoroughfare, Barretts iconic exterior and its longstanding reputation for quality home furnishings must surely be one of the town’s greatest successes.
Founded in 1969 by Jack and Ann Barrett, daughter Jill ensures their core values of friendly, personal service with customers’ best interests at heart still guide her today.
“My parents set high standards and I’m determined to carry on their legacy. Barretts will always be a welcoming, friendly shop where people can browse without any pressure. When customers need advice, they realise how useful it is to work with staff who have a vast range of experience and expertise.”
Barretts dedicated staff are passionate about home furnishing and helping customers to find exactly what they are looking for. As it is an independent trader, staff can source products they know customers want rather than being dictated to by an out-of-touch corporate head office.
Of course, 2020 has been difficult for retail and the entire staff were furloughed in the first lockdown. Jill is thankful that the restrictions set for the second lockdown have been less restrictive and Barretts has maintained a skeleton staff to man the phones and has been able to carry on measuring, estimating, fitting and delivering, as well as operating telephone and online sales with click & collect, home deliveries and a home sample service.
“The first lockdown was difficult on several levels, but not being able to open the doors every morning broke my heart. Everyone who works in retail thrives on meeting and interacting with customers. I missed my staff and the excitement and energy they and our customers bring to the shop each and every day.”
Of course, Barretts was able to trade online throughout the first lockdown and used social media to keep in touch with customers.
“We have been selling online for several years now and we continue to invest a great deal of time into making the website dynamic and user friendly, which really paid off where we were forced to close the doors. We’ve added new features too, including a Request a Measure button. In fact, I think many people who visit the website are surprised by the range of what we offer and and come to the store as a result.”
You don’t have to visit the shop though, as Barretts also offer Zoom appointments and a home sampling service. Simply let them know what you’re looking for and they will take the showroom to you at home. Now isn’t that the very definition of good customer service!
While Barretts’ reputation for quality linens, furniture, flooring, paint and home décor is undeniable, you may be surprised to know that they also sell an extensive range of luggage and wellbeing products from brands such as Neom and Arora, and their gift range is out of this world.
“Our snow globes are always popular at Christmas,” says Jill, “and we love finding new and interesting models for our customers. Our Christmas decorations are flying off the shelves this year, possibly because people are determined to make this Christmas a little extra special. For the same reason, we’ve put a lot of effort into our window displays this year. Our Christmas window display is quite renowned, you could say we’re the Harrods of Woodbridge!”
Jill and her staff are diligently observing all the best practices to keep customers and staff (as well as their families) safe and well. This includes hand sanitisers, face masks and social distancing.
Despite the challenges of the last year, Jill is confident about what lies ahead.
“I really believe that as we emerge from the Covid-era, shopping habits will evolve to value local, small independents like us, where customers can shop safely and meet friendly people who are passionate about the products they sell. Gone are the days of faceless chain-stores which all look alike, with boring old shopping centres or out of town retail parks. People will want a wonderful shopping experience, where they can find an eclectic mix of independent shops, break for a coffee or bite to eat, then make a decision with the peace of mind of knowing their money is helping the local economy and local people.”
With Jill at the helm, surrounded by staff who share her dedication to the values upon which the business was established, Barretts of Woodbridge continues to be a shining star on Woodbridge Thoroughfare. Treat yourself to a visit when lockdown ends, but in the meantime, check out the website. Just stay away from the Gisella Graham Tin Man decoration. He’s all mine!