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The benefits to businesses include:

  • ease of access and wide reach to academic institutions
  • ability to resolve a business issue quickly and efficiently
  • shared financial and technological risk during research and development activities
  • new skills and knowledge retained in businesses
  • improved business ability to exploit ideas



Purely Plants/Country Secrets


The objective of the engagement was to improve the marketing strategy of this independent plant and garden supplies centre near Banbury, specifically to:

  • understand customers better
  • understand expectations & experience
  • critique current marketing activity

This was undertaken over a period of six months and five contact days by the PI, Dr Jonathan Reynolds of Oxford University's Said Business School, through:

  • Survey and focus group work
  • Geodemographic analysis of customer data
  • Analysis of sales data by origin and by category
  • Work with a 3rd party marketing & design company to improve marketing materials

This work is now complete.


Following the engagement, Purely Plants made the decision to change their name to Country Secrets, making explicit the re-positioning of the business away from a traditional garden centre and more into gifts and services. The business now includes a dog training service (http://www.countrysecrets.co/ )

The Sweet Treat CO

The Sweet Treat Company  is a  successful ‘retro-styled’ independent sweetshop retailer, based in Winchester. The company approached the RIBEN group to seek advice on possible franchising of its concept.




Dandy Doos Fun Family Salon



Dandy Doos is a hairdressers and beauty parlour which currently has two outlets, one in Loudwater and one in Chesham. The Dandy Doos concept is novel, as alongside traditional hai/beauty services the salon provides a range of children's parties. The owner of Dandy Doos accessed university expertise and advice from RIBEN academic partners (Prof Michelle Lowe and Prof Steve Wood) on aspects of marketing of her current locations and services and on potential expansion of her business into new markets in the medium term.



Other examples of the type of work which could be undertaken under the SMEs business voucher scheme

  • A retail SME is considering introducing a simple customer loyalty scheme to improve customer patronage. Work funded through a business voucher could provide advice on cost-effective methods to enhance customer loyalty, based on insight into existing schemes, methods, and consumers’ reactions to them.
  • A retailer trading association is seeking to understand how its SME members may cost-effectively introduce mechanisms to enhance sustainable consumption. An academic from the RIBEN consortium could kickstart the process with a review of the kinds of successful mechanisms which have been used elsewhere and an action plan.
  • A small clothing retailer would like to use the Internet to sell its products more widely. A Business Voucher could provide funding for a study into the desirable objectives and the challenges of implementing such a strategy.