Q&A: Alan Demby, The Scoin Shop

The Scoin Shop is a gold coin retail chain from South Africa. Having experienced much success in his native country, Demby has now decided to target Britain. Interestingly, all three of the new shops are situated in shopping centres rather than the high street.

Why have you chosen to place your new shop in the Westfield Stratford City shopping centre?

They say that between 20 million and 50 million people will come through the doors of the centre each year spending between £700m to £1billion annually.  We're just looking for a tiny percentage of that. We don't need millions of clients, as we're a niche store. All we want is a couple hundred people to wander in and become repeat customers.

Are you not worried about being overshadowed by the huge brands that dominate this complex?

No not at all. Having these big brands surrounding us is great for business as they act as a magnet for the whole place.  These shops will bring in traffic. That means people who've never heard of the Scoin Shop will be seeing our brand and will associate us with other successful stores. This will make them feel confident if they wander in and do business with us. It's also important that we're different to the other shops. If you run a business like everybody else, you'll end up competing on price. And if you compete on price with the big brands, you'll end up getting slaughtered.

Was it expensive to secure a spot in Westfield Stratford?

There's no doubt that as a first time operator looking to open a shop, it's not easy. But we've taken a chance. It's an expensive, five-year lease. The reason we managed to get in was probably because we're not just another clothing chain or shoe shop. We offer a different service that makes it less competitive for everyone else and gives the centre a bit of variety. But at the end of the day, we've got to do enough business to pay the rent.

A lot of your coins are based on commemorative occasions, such as the Royal Wedding. How much of a boost are these special coins for your business?

Those events drive more people in the store and generate more sales. We sold hundreds of the Royal Wedding coins. We made Engagement ones then followed it up with a Royal Wedding edition. In terms of percentage increase, before the announcement of the engagement, we didn't expect anything extra. So it went from 0% to a 400% increase.  What's great about these extra occasions is that it has a spill over effect, as people who buy a commemorative coin are then more likely to come back and buy a normal one.

What occasions will you be targeting in the future?

For us the Olympics next year will be huge. Starting from January we'll be creating a lot of business for that, and then there's the Queen's Diamond Jubilee coming up in 2012 as well.

How do you plan for these unexpected events?

You've just got to duck, dive and dance. It's the nature of business.  We don't employ extra staff, you just need to have them there already in place for when something like that happens. If you sell enough, then it's worth it. But I would say, you need a lot of 'plan B's'.

How do you encourage repeat business?

A regular customer is the holy grail of business. The trick is to get them in four times. We do this by developing new products and giving them a positive experience in the shop. People like doing deals with people who are friendly. Whether you're buying a company, coins or clothes, you have to build a good relationship with the customer.

How do you market the Scoin Shop?

Advertising is extremely important to us. My first advert was fifty-years-ago, when I was a one-man dealer. It was a two-line promotion in the smalls of the classified section. This grew into the normal classifieds, then a little block in the weekday newspapers, followed by the Sunday papers and now radio and T.V. I believe that original little advert got us business. When I started, my advertising budget was £10 a month, now it's over £3 million a year.

Find out more about the Scoin Shop


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