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Timpson is a fairly unique British institution. It is a chain of high street stores that offers, among other things, shoe repairs, key cutting, dry cleaning, photo processing, mobile phone repairs, jewellery and watch repair, and house signs. Timpson is well known for allowing individual outlets to experiment with what services they offer and allowing new innovations to spread throughout the chain at the discretion of the local managers, with the result that you may or may not find any particular service at any given branch.
Timpson was founded in Manchester England in 1865 by shoemakers William Timpson and his brother-in-law Walter Joyce. The company did well, but it wasn't until 1987 that the current owner, John Timpson, sold off the core business of shoe manufacturing and moved towards shoe repair and miscellaneous that the business started to take on its current form.
Since that time Timpson has been buying up competitors, if you can call them that, in the general category of "small shops". These have included Automagic, Minit UK, The House Nameplate Company, Persil Services, Tesco's digital photo branch, and in 2014, Snappy Snaps, this last of which increased their number of outlet locations by more than 10%.
Timpson has made a name for itself in creative and effective management strategies. John Timpson is well-known for having a laid-back but highly involved management style. He allows his local branch managers to do whatever they find works for that location, and encourages local innovations. He also encourages team-based and trust-based staff management and has decentralized corporate policy, allowing local managers to handle complaints as they see fit, putting local teams in control of inventory, hiring, and firing, and eliminating electronic point-of-sale machines that report sales and inventory to a central database. Despite this, he spends much of his time travelling from store to store, seeing how things are going and offering advice.
Over the last 30 years Timpson has grown to be a familiar name in the United Kingdom and Ireland, but with a rather unusual business model, diverse and uneven offerings, and John Timpson well into his 70s, it is uncertain how long it will survive in its current form. However, it is currently in a strong position, and given that its greatest strength is its flexibility it is likely that Timpson will be around for at least a few more decades.