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February 2002: Paul Smith - A rose by any other name…
I like shop names. Hairdressers seem to have the best ones, with titles like 'A Cut Above', 'Curl Up And Dye' and 'The Cutting Room'. I wish our industry embraced puns so warmly. 'The Chip Shop' is a good one I suppose, but there are far too many combinations of 'The Computer/PC/Micro Shop/Centre/Store' for my liking. If your retail business has any of these names, then please don't think I'm accusing you of a lack of imagination. These are all good names. They tell the potential shopper what to expect. It's the 'It does exactly what it says on the tin' effect, and it's very reassuring for the casual punter. However, since your businesses name is often the first thing that registers with other people, I reckon a little more creativity should be applied to it.
Naming a shop is like naming a child. You want to create an impression with the tag. Hardly anyone names his or her offspring Cyril or Gertrude anymore because times and tastes have changed. Only the daughter of a rock star could get away with being called Moon-unit, and Jocasta Smith isn't going to fool anyone that she's a member of the landed gentry. This is why people usually play it safe, and there are so many Claires and Johns in the world. (Again, no disrespect to any Claires or Johns reading this. They're both great names with much to recommend them.) So, where can you gather memorable shop name ideas?
You could take a look at how Plumbers and Builders get to the front of the Yellow Pages, and rename your shop 'Aardvark PCs' or 'A1 Systems'. You could go for irony, with a title like 'Ye Olde Computer Shoppe' or 'Bodge I.T.' In an industry based on acronyms, it seems appropriate to use any old string of letters to name your business. It didn't hurt IBM to lose the 'nternational usiness achines' bit of their name. Sadly, the same cannot be said of my mate Colin Underwood and his abortive business venture, which was called Network Technology. He made headlines in our local paper with his shop front, even though they needed to blank out much of the picture…
As noted above, the risk of getting the name wrong is a serious one. Imagine poor Fifi Trixabell trying to get a job at a top London law firm in a few years time. And calling your PC building business 'Hair by Alan' would be financial suicide. It probably wouldn't be much better if it was actually a hairdressers, but there you go.
To summarise: Any businesses name is more than the first line of an address; it's an advert in itself. Picking something memorable is vital, but there are clear risks in trying to be too clever because not everyone has a detectable sense of humour.
As a footnote, my hat comes off to the shop I heard of in Lincolnshire that goes by the exquisite moniker of 'PC WOLD'. Pure genius.
Paul Oberon Smith is an ex retailer and now works in distribution.
500 carefully selected words Dale.
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