Tag Archives: shop

Is the High Street making a comeback?

29 Apr

I was walking through my home town of Teignmouth the other day and was struck by how many new shops and cafés seem to be popping up.  Not so long ago, every time I went into town it seemed like another business had closed down.  At one point, I think there were more empty shops on our main street than there were open!  It’s really good to see the town coming back to life, a new Morrison’s recently opened, and I think a lot of people were worried that it would be the end of the town centre, but thankfully it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Similarly, in local Exeter, when Princesshay opened, a lot of the High Street shops started closing down.  But now, most of the shops on the High Street are open, and there are lots of new shops in the area.  Hopefully this is a sign of things to come, and we will start to see less empty shops on our High Streets.

With the growth of Internet shopping, there is less of a need to go into town centres to get what we need.  Shopping from home can be quicker, you don’t need to worry about parking or getting your items home, and you can shop around before making a decision.  But you lose the experience of shopping (which, if you ask me, is an experience that should be maximised and enjoyed as much as possible!), you can’t try clothes on, you won’t pick up things that you wouldn’t normally, you can’t choose your own fruit and veg, and you can’t chat with the shopkeepers.

As a business it makes sense to have an online presence as well as a shop.  You can use this to stay in touch with customers, let them know about special offers or new products/services, and just generally remind them that you’re there!  Hopefully you will be able to offer some kind of shop, even if it just sells gift vouchers (for example if you have a café, or are a hairdresser) so that you can gain some additional sales.  The easiest way to get started online is through social media – simply setting up a facebook page or twitter feed.  Get in touch if you need any support getting started – call us on 0800 043 2440.

Love Vintage?

4 Mar

Jo Abram has worked with disabled people for over ten years, but last year decided to follow her dreams and open her own vintage clothes shop in Bideford, North Devon.  She continues to work part time with people with learning difficulties to subsidise her self employed income.


I opened Jo Joe’s as I had always admired shops like The Real McCoy/Uncle Sams in Bristol, and American Classics in London.  I used to shop in them in my teens and even though I am nearly 40 (!!) I still love this kind of shop.  So last year, I decided to leave my corporate job, move back to Bideford and set up Jo Joe’s at Butchers Row in Bideford – they have small retail units which are ideal for a start up buisness, they are priced at £100 per month and are small enough for you not to feel too overwhlemed!  I also work part time helping people with learning difficulties find employment – I think it’s important to say that unless you have lots of savings or a rich husband (who does!!) that it is unlikely that you will earn enough on one of these units to live on, so most of us there work part time elsewhere too.
I researched the area and found that there were no other shops like this outside of Exeter.  I therefore felt confident that there would be a market for my kind of clothing in the area and I was right – the reception I have had since opening in October last year has been great, with a lot of people saying they will no longer have to travel to Exeter (to the Real McCoy) and so this saves them time and money as they can shop locally instead.
I market my business by leaflet drops, regular Facebook presence and also promoting it whenever and wherever I can – I always carry a stack of cards with me, and as I dress in a vintage/retro style myself, I often get asked where I get my clothes from, so I say ‘jo joe’s’, my shop, have a card!!!
The best thing about running my business is when a customer comes in and is unsure about what would suit them, I talk to them about what they like/style colour etc and then pick things out for them to try, almost always they are thrilled with the result and it may be something they would never have thought of  but they look great – they are often breaking out of their comfort zone but I give them the confidence to go for it and its great to see them really excited about their new look!
I don’t miss being employed full time but I must admit I do like the balance between running hte shop and office work 50/50.  I have worked with people with disabilities for 10 years and I am glad to still be involved in this type of work, there may come a time when I go full time in the shop but I actually enjoy the variety of having two jobs at the moment.
The advice I would give someone opening a shop is to LOVE YOUR PRODUCT.  I am passionate about all things vintage and retro, and I think this comes across to my customers.  I have been into many shops where the sales assistant looks bored and disinterested in what they are doing and I think this has a really negative effect on the customer.  I love what I do – sourcing the stock, the space I have created and the social aspect of the shop – I also believe you have to be hardworking and not expect to ‘clock off’ at 5pm.  I am often washing/ironing/steaming late at night, or updating facebook with new pictures, I work Saturdays and every time there is a special event on in town I will open the shop evenings and sundays etc so expect to be flexible and maximise sales opportunities when they come up!  Oh yeah, you’ve also got to be good at paperwork/keeping records and be organised!!!!

You can find Jo Joe’s on Facebook or at 6 Butchers Row, Pannier Market, Bideford.

Jo Joe's

A New Approach to Marketing

25 Feb

Arabella runs the Natural Nursery, selling cloth nappies, slings and other baby items.  The Natural Nursery originally had premises in Bristol, but since moving to Exeter and having another baby, Arabella has decided to use alternative methods to market her products and reach her customers.

“Over the 8 years I have been running my business, the Natural Nursery, I have seen huge changes in the market and it has been very important to adapt to reflect these.  I have seen lots of small businesses set up, for example selling baby slings or cloth nappies, and, unfortunately, close down a few years or even months later as they have not been able to make a go of it financially.

Times are increasingly tough for everyone but it needn’t be all doom and gloom – there are lots of ways you can help to ensure that your business is one of the success stories.  At the moment, The Natural Nursery does not have a fulltime high street presence in Exeter, so I am always looking for new ways to make sure the local families know of us and what we can offer.  Advertising is very expensive and, I find, very hit and miss, so here are some of my favourite ways to market my cloth nappies and sling business to the local families.

1. Pop up Shop.  I love meeting people face to face but at the moment can’t commit to running a shop full time again due to family commitments. The pop up shop has been really popular with customers and allows me to commit to a few days at a time.  I found a local business that has some spare space and negotiated with them to rent a shop unit in one of local shopping arcades for 3 days a month.  We agreed a daily rate, I had some posters made up and marketed the days via Facebook, Twitter, baby forums etc.  Customers love the idea – it means they can come in and browse through my range at their leisure, they can ask all the questions that they want and many people, dads especially, feel more comfortable in a shop environment.

2. Table at local toddler groups etc. This is another lovely way to meet people and allows your local market to put a face to your name.  It is important not to be too focused on SELLING – people are there to chat, meet their friends, play with their children, not to buy something, so be prepared to introduce yourself and your business, say a few quick words and have information that they can take away with them.  If you show the group leaders and parents that you are happy to offer them information and advice if needed, and don’t go into a high pressure sales pitch, you will find that you build strong relationships, so that you will be invited back again and again and will be the first port of call when they DO want to buy.

3. Table in a local shop. In a similar vein to visiting local toddler groups, making contact with a shop that has a similar target market to yours can pay big dividends.  I regularly visit shops to provide demos of nappies and slings to their customers and it is a win win situation.  The customers have access to free, detailed advice, the shop owner has more people through the door who may buy something else while they are there and you have access to more potential customers.  There are lots of ways you can do this, a one off event, a regular session, you may simply do a demo or actually take stock with you to sell.  If the latter, it may be a nice gesture to pay some commission to the shop owner – after all you are using their space for free and they will have hefty rents and rates to pay.

4. Leave stock in shops on a sale or return basis.  This works really well with shops that you visit to do demos in – customers can listen to everything you have to say, knowing there is no pressure to buy there and then, and can return at their leisure to have another look and buy if they want.  Again, I like to offer some form of commission to the shop owner as you are using space that they could put other stock into.

5. Organise a special event. Get together with a group of other likeminded businesses where you all want to attract the same type of customers and hold a big event.  This could be a baby fair, a local street market, a bring and buy sale, a sponsored bake or dance.  Anything that you will enjoy organising, that you think your target market will want to participate in and will be FUN, would work.  With clever budgeting, it shouldn’t cost much more than the price of hiring a local Scout Hut or community hall, and that would be shared between the group of you.  Use Facebook, Twitter, posters in local shops and cafes and each other’s existing network to market the event, drop the local press a line about it (if you tell them in advance they may publicise the event for you and then you can also send them a short story of the event itself with some photos, so you could be in the paper twice).  On the day, make sure you circulate to make lots of contacts and remember it is not all about how much you sell on the day, the friends and extended network you create will pay dividends in the long run.

Remember, building a successful business is a long process, so don’t be too focussed on the sale today; look to creating a flourishing network of contacts that know you to be THE expert in your area and they will soon be recommending you to all their friends and clients.”


Arabella has been running the Natural Nursery for over 8 years, selling a range of cloth nappies and baby slings.

Arabella is available for demos of slings and nappies at various locations in Exeter, including the new baby shop, Lilibets on Fore Street, Heavitree, Exeter, on Wednesday afternoons.

Full details of these and other events arranged by Arabella can be found on www.exeterbabyactivities.co.uk

You can also find the Natural Nursery on Facebook.

Adapting to Change: Seashore Ceramics

24 Sep

A couple of years ago I was wondering what to get for a good friend’s baby’s christening and first birthday.  She was having a tea party, so I decided that I should paint her a personalised teapot.  Moments after deciding this I walked past a closed shop, with a notice in the window “Pottery Painting Studio opening soon”.  Fate was on my side that day!  The lovely Seashore Ceramics opened a couple of weeks later.  Unfortunately they have had to come to the difficult decision to close the shop now, so this is a story all about adapting to change.

On leaving university, I went straight into a career in publishing and marketing, working for companies such as Reader’s Digest in London. However, the industry is going through a huge time of change at the moment, with an increasing amount of restructures, buy-outs and redundancies happening. On moving back to Devon both me and my husband had taken office jobs but really felt like it was time to make a change and become our own bosses.

I had always joked to friends that one day I would set up a pottery painting cafe because I’d enjoyed doing it on friends hen parties so much, and I decided to make that dream a reality. We searched for a suitable location and decided on Teignmouth as having a busy tourist trade and not being too far a drive from our home, plus not being too close to any similar businesses. We found a retail premises which we did up from scratch – I was pregnant at the time and stripping wallpaper up a high ladder with morning sickness was an interesting experience! We also got training in how to glaze and fire the pottery from our suppliers and spent many evenings running profit and loss forecasts, working out who was best to buy our stock from, and developing our website and branding. It was so much fun putting all the knowledge I had learnt in my previous time in marketing into my own business!

The shop opened in April 2011, to a warm reception from the lovely Teignmouth locals. We quickly discovered that the business was more dependent on the school holidays than we had hoped, but gradually things built to a lovely busy summer season. We worked hard to build a local customer base by doing events at local school fetes, preschools etc and our regular customers soon became friends too – one of my favourite parts of the business! However the winter season was extremely quiet in Teignmouth and we did begin to wonder if it was the best location for us, so decided to stay one more summer and then re-assess our plans. Our baby daughter also arrived in the winter and the reality of running a shop-based business soon hit home – amazing in some respects, that we could bring her in with us every day and she has met so many lovely people, but also very hard work in others (for example trying to get a teething baby to nap in a busy shop!)

Summer 2012 was still nice and busy but we really found ourselves affected by the weather, and another business which had opened up in Teignmouth also offering pottery painting. As petrol costs went up and up the cost of commuting from Bovey Tracey to Teignmouth every day also became a major factor. So with a heavy heart we decided not to renew the lease in September.

However, the story doesn’t end there! Over the last year or so we have begun the makings of a mobile business with the sessions we have been doing in schools, preschools and for Brownies, Guides, etc, so we will be continuing build that over the next few months. One of the best things about having the shop has been that we have both discovered a love for making our own ceramic artwork and will be selling this at craft fairs on a regular basis in future. I also discovered a slightly geekier interest in bookkeeping and am hoping to do a course in this as soon as childcare for my daughter allows. We have kept our kiln and pottery stock so will be running ‘pop-up’ sessions in local village halls in the school holidays, and will be keeping our ear to the ground to hopefully find a great new location for next summer, hopefully nearer to where we live.

The main thing I have learnt from being self employed is adapt, adapt, adapt! It’s very hard to do so when a business, especially a shop, becomes your ‘baby’, but I feel really positive about the opportunities the future holds for our business. If anyone is interested in booking us for a mobile session, please contact us on 0776 474 4569, info@seashoreceramics.co.uk, or through our facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/seashoreceramics




Hose Solutions Ltd: An eBay Success Story

6 Aug

Do you sell your unwanted stuff on eBay?  Have you ever thought about just how easy it would be to start an eBay shop?  Ben Viner did just that, working out of his spare room at home selling hoses.  Three years on Hose Solutions has premises in Exeter and employs five full time members of staff.  Here he shares how he (and his wife) did it.

What does your business do?

We specialise in the manufacture of replacement hoses for cars, bikes, buses, trucks, central heating systems… basically anything that requires a hose to pass fluid from one place to another!

What made you decide to start your business?

The business started up as a hobby whilst I was at university, the idea springing simply from a problem I had with my car at the time, and a friend I had who worked at a local hydraulics outlet.  This then developed into a series of self designed products and a small number of branded hoses from suppliers I found and set up accounts with in my own time.

How did you start your business?

I contacted Business Link and HMRC who provided me with all the necessary information I needed to set up.  I also contacted a local accountant who advised on the best way to start up according to my sales predictions for the 1st year, ie sole trader, limited company etc.

When did you know your business was a success?

I guess this was only when we took our first employee on.  At that point I knew the business was sustainable and growing at a rapid rate to the extent that we couldn’t cope on our own anymore.

How did it feel taking on your first member of staff?

We were definitely nervous initially of being able to afford extra staff, but the benefits of fresh ideas, new working practices, and simply someone else to ‘bounce’ ideas off proved very helpful.  Three years ago we worked alone in a spare room at home, and we now employ 5 full time staff.

How did it feel getting your first premises?

It was fantastic moving to our first business premises in Devon.  We’d worked for 2 years previous to that out of what soon became a very cramped spare bedroom as the business grew!

What tips would you give anyone wanting to start an ebay business?

Do plenty of research.  eBay has virtually every product/brand known to man listed – you are likely to have stiff competition whatever you sell, so getting a clear and professional listing and photo of the product you are selling is as important as your pricing and the product itself.

How do your market your business?

We have 3 websites each selling various different products/categories, we have an eBay shop, and we advertise on online forums, in magazines, and at events/shows around the country. We also use social networking sites like Facebook and twitter where we have a combined following of over 10000 at present.  We believe strongly in brand awareness, so getting our name ‘out there’ in any way possible is very important to us.

Do you still have an eBay shop?

Yes, we’ve just ‘re-skinned’ it this year actually (eBay shop).  It’s important to keep the shop up to date with it being the first thing the customer sees when he looks for our products.  We have seen a massive increase in eBay sales since we put time into our listing and shop designs which were previously just the basic and standard ebay templates.

What is the best thing about having your own business?

There is nothing better than being your own boss, and seeing your hard work pay off.  Yes times can be hard and stressful, but those times are soon forgotten when you look at all the positive aspects self-employment brings you.                      

www.helcarkits.co.uk                             www.hosesolutions.org.uk                             www.helperformance.com