An internet pioneer from North Wales has won an international accolade for the way he trades online.
Chris Duckworth was among the first wave of businesspeople to see the potential of ecommerce 15 years ago.
Mr Duckworth, 56, who runs a newsagents and tobacconists shop in Colwyn Bay, has expanded the range of merchandise to include Welsh-branded items like rugby shirts, clothes, baseball caps and even Welsh dragon onesies, along with a whole host of other fancy goods.
As a result, the business now has thousands of customers across the world – as far afield as Japan, New Zealand and Australia.
The quality of his customer service has now been recognised by Feefo, the online trading equivalent of TripAdvisor.
Duckworth’s has just been awarded Gold Trusted Merchant status after achieving a 100 per cent satisfaction rating from 3,000 customers.
According to Mr Duckworth, much of the credit for their online success should go to the Llandudno-based Livetech digital creative agency who encouraged them to go down the e-commerce route all those years ago.
Livetech still look after their website and search engine optimisation to keep them high in Google’s rankings.
It’s been so successful that half the turnover at Duckworth’s is now generated by online sales.
The global honour is a perfect birthday present for the business.
Mr Duckworth and his wife, Catherine, bought the shop in Abergele road 30 years ago after he had a spell working in retail with the Co-operative Society.
But the family business goes back even further to 1926 when it was established as wholesale chemist in Blackburn, in Lancashire.
He said: “Selling online was one of the best decisions I have ever made so I will always be grateful to Paul Levy, from Livetech.
“After the move online, the business just grew and grew each year – turnover doubled in the first several years.
“To get in early was good because obviously, the earlier you get in, the better the domain name you can get and you get an established customer base as well right from the start.
“Ecommerce has transformed the business. I would say that if I hadn’t done it, I probably wouldn’t be here now so it certainly saved my business and it’s given me a comfortable living.
“I have two websites, one for tobacco, cigars, pipes and the accessories and the other one is where we sell a lot of Welsh clothing, rugby shirts and that sort of thing.
“The internet gives you a shop window that gives you access to anywhere in the world and of course it’s open 24 hours a day.
“It’s nice to come in in the morning and find that you’ve taken quite a bit of money already before you’ve started the day.
“I was extremely proud to be awarded Gold Merchant status which is based on a customer feedback programme – I’ve got about 3,000 feedbacks now with 100 per cent satisfaction.
“We pride ourselves on giving the best service that we can. We do make mistakes and, if we do, then we’re keen to put it right.
“We did have one customer that did give us some negative feedback over something. We very quickly put it right for him and he reversed it. He was more than happy.
“Paul Levy was the person who helped me get into this 15 years ago and his support and expertise have been a key part of our success.
“We tend to meet a couple of times a year to discuss our strategy moving forward and he’s always given superb advice – and it’s obviously working.
Paul Levy, the managing director of Livetech, was equally proud.
He said: “It’s been great to work with Chris right from when we chatted about the idea 15 years ago. It’s really evident that Chris knows about dealing with people and he’s got an affinity for service.
“What he’s done is take good old-fashioned customer service values that he does face to face and he’s not changed anything. The stuff he does online is exactly the same.
“It’s a winning formula. I guess it’s what makes him stand out from those that just do it on an opportunist basis, just doing it for the money.
“Our involvement on a basic level is about all the technicalities of building a website, from the web post to the email systems, the shopping cart, the part of the website that takes the orders and gets paid.
“The technology of the website is a given. You also have to make sure the front of the website is easy to use for the customer and that’s always a challenge.
“But that’s no good unless we deliver people to the website so we’ve had a lot of success over the years in getting top search engine positions for Chris.
“Chris has been an internet retail pioneer and he’s got a lot to teach other retailers, people who look to be going into this area.
“Colwyn Bay is right for this type of business because the rents tend to be a bit lower here. There are big opportunities here.”