By in Havens BBC Documentary

Havens On Million Dollar Intern Watch TV Thursday 4th September 2014

Ok so I am not overly looking forward to tonight’s Million Dollar Intern on Watch TV which was filmed in May 2013. I have already seen the screening and it is not overly flattering!

I have written at length of our experience and here are some links to the best articles which give an insight as to what happens when the cameras get rolling along with the production teams editorial bias – sorry I meant remit!

Blog 1:
Following the screening of the Millionaire Intern on BBC worldwide we have received many emails of support, observations and objective criticism. There has also been a great increase in the traffic to our website
Rather than try to respond individually to all the emails I thought I would set out our views on the program and the way we see business going forward. – See more
Blog 2:

Well it all seemed like a good idea at the time. The first approach was made by a TV production company in January 2013. They had been commissioned by the BBC to create a business series of documentaries featuring 10 established businesses. We were told that the series would look at the ups and downs and the challenges faced by each business, what they were doing well and areas that with a little help could be improved.

Nothing too alarming there then, just needed confirmation that we would not be subjected to a reality TV gimmick, nor made to look like a basket case and we would agree to go ahead – See more

Roll Forward to September 2014:

The main positive to come out of the show is the bond and relationship I have formed with Suleman Sacranie, the Millionaire intern. Off screen he knew that trying to breathe life into a traditional retail business was unrealistic and in some ways he too felt embarrassed that the production team’s angle was on just that.

As it happens last year was not one of our best all round. However we were, even before the filming, looking at other projects to drive our business forward and retail was not one of them!

Since November last year we have been growing again with the last 6 months significantly up on the previous year and heading towards a record year given a fair Christmas behind us.

The key areas of growth is our move into Customer Services and Order Fulfilment for other peoples websites – they maintain their own website, we take all the orders, buy the stock and fulfil them and in return pay a commission to the host.

Our Service and Loyalty business to business company – Havens  is also well up on last year as we more assiduously pursue leads and enquiries. This business covers gift solutions, both catalogue and online to reward employees loyalty and recognising their commitment. our retail website is also performing back to near it’s best. Last year like so many independent retailers, our organic search volumes fell dramatically overnight when Google changed it’s search algorithm. Quite frightening as we had no control –  no bad Google alerts to respond to, we just had to find ways around it – life without Google was born.

In truth the general search results for our brands were poor – we could tell as the consumer was clicking on our adwords – Amazon, Ebay and more logically the brand owner, along with overseas sites proliferated in clusters sending us and our fellow independents from page 1 to page 2 and beyond! The good news, in May this year there was a further Google algorithm change and our organic search results and positioning has returned, along with a massive increase in sales.

One thing we did do was to look closely at and felt that it was maybe too sophisticated/complicated/confusing for Google’s search spiders. So many products, 9000 plus and thousands of possible landing pages. So we decided to use some dormant web addresses and the Just brand is reborn with

Justglassware does what it says on the tin – just glassware! The brief is to create a specialist authority on the product, that is quality brand led and has editorial and visual personality. We aim to launch this in October 2014 and if successful will be followed by Justtableware and Justcutlery along with a few others we have up our sleeve.

So as you can see we have kept ourselves busy and many of the projects I have discussed with Suleman who is able to look at objectively and I truly value his incisive views.

The only area that continues to disappoint is the retail side of the business, in spite of the Interns in put as seen on the documentary. Whilst the decline is not great there is no growth and as Suleman and I both agree, footfall on the UK high street is not going to get better any time soon, so spending resource on that side of the business is not, in my view, commercial.

The shame is we do have a beautiful store in so many ways, the art deco 1930’s architecture and fittings, the interesting product assortment and the unique way the product is presented. We know that when people visit us they love us the problem is that there is just not enough footfall in the road or area – not an exclusive issue to Westcliff. If you are inspired to come and see us and prove me wrong then I will more than happily seriously look at more investment in the store itself. 

So there you have the update – we are always looking for new opportunities – change is in our DNA and we are not frightened of it. The way people shop has moved on, it is a shame that the program makers did not see that and focused their attentions on the warming but misguided idea of making the store better. What I believe they should have looked to Suleman’s strengths – asses where we are and what we have, look at where we are going, look at new opportunities and make better use of the capital and assets that we have.

Now that would have made a really interesting watch…



  1. I watched the programme last night having come across it whilst channel surfing. I lived in Southend eight years ago but now live in Devon. We used to visit Havens occasionally and would buy kitchen ware. I think it’s a great store with a good ambience but sometimes I bought something because I felt the assistants might be demoralised if nothing was purchased by a browser. My suggestion is that you have a small coffee shop in Havens. I’m surprised that Suleman didn’t suggest it. Department store coffee shops are always popular and they get people in. Even if they don’t buy anything the first or second time, the coffee shop becomes habitual. People in the store attract more. Give a few carrier bags away, too. It’s free advertising. Kind regards, Dave Griffin.
    PS – I worked in Garon’s fruit and veg shop, just a few doors down, in 1965. Remember Steve? As a chain smoker he’s probably long gone now.

    1. Dear David,
      Thanks for your observations and hope that life in Devon suits you. We have in the past drawn up plans for a tea room but commercially it requires footfall and there is just not enough of that in Hamlet Court Road. Coincidently I have a great friend with a store in Loughborough who had a very popular tea room. He had to close it last year as the numbers just did not stack up in a secondary location. An indicator is also the absence of a chain coffee shop too.
      The business continues to thrive mainly due to our website and other businesses, the store represents just 35% of business these days.
      We will continue to improve and cherish the store- it is in our blood.
      Many thanks for your interest,
      Kind regards,

  2. I actually thought the programme was very positive and came online with the purpose of shopping, but your post feels negative and has put me off. Seems to me that you should be happy with anyone trying to help your business, and the exposure. I’m sure your Father and Grandfather would be dissapointed to hear you give up on the store – I thought it looked lovely and would definitly shop there!

    1. Dear Hannah,
      I am sorry that you feel my post was negative I was trying to reflect on how the program was editorially slanted and the reality of what the high street faces.
      We are not giving up on the store – we own it and have enormous pride in it. The truth is that footfall on the high street has progressively declined as Consumer shopping habits change. Without embracing these changes we could not justify retaining our beautiful building.

      The point I guess I was trying to make was how could the Entrepreneur help us move forward in different directions to best use the resources we have.
      Off camera Suleman knew that focussing purely on the shop itself was not the answer but unfortunately was not given licence to deliver a bigger picture.
      I am delighted to say that Suleman and I get on very well and that we are still in close contact discussing developments of our business and us giving him objective views on his projects too. It is a relationship that I cherish and for from shunning external ideas I love them.
      My dear father is a far thinking businessman too, whilst now retired we still seek his wise counsel and he has always taught us “doing nothing in business is not an option”
      Many thanks for your interest and taking the time to comment, I do hope that you give us another look online and should you ever be in the Southend area we would love to welcome you to our store too – it is unique!
      Kindest regards,