Leo Russell Sports – Preston
Business Owner: Peter Russell
How many years have you owned this business and how did it start?
“This business first opened in 1935. My father opened it. He lived upstairs. It started as a library and then after he came back from the war, he started selling crockery and china. Then he moved into tennis and transitioned into a general sports store. We used to have a lot of other sports gear. Now we specialise in shoes only.
What personal characteristic traits have kept you in business so long?
“I go out of my way to help customers. This is an old fashioned store. I know all my customers. I’ll be in another suburb in Melbourne and people will recognise me because I have been here so long. I was once in Gembrook and I remember a bloke yelling out to me “I’ll be there next week Peter”.
People are treated nicely. All my staff are nice to the customers and we look after them. If they’ve got a problem we look after them. We also stock all sizes and widths. I carry all my shoes up to 14 and some up to 17 and the women’s all up to 11 and some up to 13 and 14. We carry all the sizes and all the widths. Super wide and super narrow.”
Can you tell me a highlight of owning this business?
“Satisfaction of the business succeeding. Every business now is gigantic. Shops like us don’t exist any more so that fact that we are still going gives me great satisfaction.
We’ve always been open 9-12 on Saturday. People ring up and I tell them, its no good you coming at half past eleven. You’ve got to come at 9 o’clock because we can’t serve 100 people. We sell between 70 – 100 pairs of shoes on Saturdays. Once we did 146 in one day.”
What about a lowlight?
“We have been burgled over the years a lot. There was a time when they knocked the whole window down and pinched half the shop.”
What are the biggest changes you have seen in your industry?
“Colour and much bigger range. Compared to a few years ago, the range is enormous. Before we only used to have one junior shoe, one model and one colour. It’s fashion, people want colour, they buy because of colour.”
Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
“Still going. I might go until I am 100.”
Would you ever sell the business?
“I don’t know. I wouldn’t want someone else to come in and stuff it up and ruin our reputation.”
What advice would you give to someone starting their own business?
“You have to sell a good product. And make sure you have a break. You wear yourself out working non stop seven days a week.”