Starting my own shop - Part Two: Six Lessons Learned

Six Lessons Learned

I've learned lot over the past few months but these are some of the major things.

Unpredictable – Park View is predominately a season shopping destination. When it’s sunny people come out and stroll along the street. We get people coming from as far away as Cramlington and Gateshead. One lady had made a detour from her trip from Liverpool to Alnwick. However, we still did a really good week when the snow first started in November and people couldn’t get to the likes of Newcastle town centre. One thing is for sure you never quite know how many people will walk through the door because as soon as you try and trace patterns another variable will raise its head such as a craft fair or major event such as the Royal Wedding. You have to be thankful for busy days and take the rough days with the smooth.

Avoiding – The best thing about still working full-time and having shop managers is that when the sales calls come through. I learned very quickly that it is best to have their query written on a bit of paper for me to bin more often or not. Those who need to speak to me such as my energy supplier, phone company, bank etc all have my mobile number. Everyone else gets the cool reception of a manager who doesn’t have the remit to make the kind of decisions they are after. For example we have had requests from various companies including fire extinguisher suppliers to PAT testing and utility suppliers to charities. The problem with charities is if I gave a prize to everyone that came through my door I wouldn’t have any stock to sell. Again having the distance means that I avoid these kind of requests. I happily donate to charities I want to in my own good time.

Spending – I’ve learned to factor in duty and VAT to my international purchases just in case I have to pay for it. Wholesale also doesn’t always mean the best price or they hold the amount of stock that you need in the more stable items. Going straight to the supplier also saves you money. Finally, before buying things always think, what value is this adding to my range, how does it fit in with what we’re selling. Make sure you don’t pigeon hole yourself into one market. If I only had beads and findings I wouldn’t have made the money I have done on jewellery bought in and home-made or the jewellery stands and boxes or my lovely hand-crafted goods.

Competition – A month after opening a competitor opened up five doors down from our shop. I admit I was very worried especially since I knew she had had a shop previously which had done quite well. The up shot is that it isn’t scary at all. It’s a good thing. She’s moved more towards dress making and haberdashery where I’ve moved into more specialised areas of jewellery making. People come to Park View because they think I will definitely get what I want between those two shops and it seems to work for both of us!

Staff – I love both my shop managers to pieces and whilst Katie is no relative unlike Sarah Jane who is my cousin. It does very much feel like a family business. Neither the less I have had to learn how to reign one of them in and give another room to grow in their own right. It’s hard and tough but because we get on so well it’s great. I would like to increase the amount of staff I have but its very much baby steps at the moment. I’m not sure I have the time to watch over more bodies at the moment either.

Community – I’ve been trying to figure out what defines my shop. As I mentioned I had a lot of funerals to attend last month but what was lovely is the nice emails I got from our loyal customers wishing me well and telling me how much they love my shop and what I offer. I'm becoming more involved with local business, the council and societies such as the Brownies and Girl Guides & Cubs and Scouts.

Whilst I've learnt an awful lot I still have lots to learn. These lessons have pointed out a few things I need to do over the next six months.

Starting my own shop - Part One: Six Months Trading

Six Months Trading

Starting up a business is tough and Rosewill Cottage has been no exception. Whilst its loyal customer base is growing steadily it certainly has a long way to go to becoming a profitable business in the sense of earning enough money to pay a chunk off my mortgage or towards a holiday. It is however important to remember that it has only been open for nearly six months and we have made a load of progress in leaps and bounds.

October (last week of) - Whilst most of October was fraught with pushing through the lease signing and getting the shop fitted. We opened on Saturday 23 October and it was well worth the reward of a satisfying super first day. With support coming from friends and family alike and making the front page of The Journal’s business section.
November - With the gear up towards Christmas you’d be fooled into thinking that trading would be great but in all honesty it wasn’t. The economic downturn and pinch on household spending as the credit crunch started to catch those who had luckily escaped the first wave seemed to have kept the shoppers away. The most annoying part of November was the barrage of cold calls offering advertising, utility services most of which were swindling/time-wasting liars using fear tactics to get you to part with your money.

December - Most disappointing month of the year! With the snow making Park View a literal skating rink for cars and the paths treacherous it was no surprise that we had a slow beginning to this month. This was then hampered by everyone’s desired to get their presents for Christmas in one place and resulted in them ditching the local trader for the likes of the Metrocentre or Newcastle town centre. To say that worry had set in was an understatement but never-the-less we had enough money to pay the bills and wages so we plodded on to what would I predicted would be for small retailers like me, the traditionally bleak….

January - I was amazed to find that the people of the jewellery making brigade of Whitley Bay came out in force to spend their Christmas money on what they wanted….beads! I was glad to have bought in the Valentine’s themed heart beads and charms early on and found the second week of January was my best week of trading to date! The format we used for our workshops wasn’t quite working so we moved to a one day a week format, that day being a Tuesday.

February - This month was full of birthday parties, workshops and a project which had taking me since November to plan in fine detail as well as a negotiation process which placed me in the position of bidding for tender for the first time. The Apprentice workshops which took place in the half-term school holiday were a huge success and meant I had become an Educational Partnerships Business Ambassador for North Tyneside Council. Even though the council will probably cut this service the links I have made have meant that there could be a chance of reviving this project with a different objective and audience. Watch this space is all I can say!

March – Came in like a lion and went out like a lamb. This was a busy month for me personally with lots of funerals to attend which meant the shop managers were left to literally manage on their own. We had a record sales week with Saturddays picking up fantastically. The ‘Pins and Needles’ craft show took place in the first weekend of April which meant we were more quieter on the bead sales front for the last two weeks of March, but luckily we had ample potential Mother’s Day gifts such as our handmade jewellery items and our jewellery stands which softened the blow of lack of bead sales immensely. Whilst we missed our regulars madly, it was lovely to see a lot of new faces and make new friends.

April – Magazines start arriving in the shop and leaving just as quickly. The nicer weather is bringing more footfall to Park View which is great! More people are attending our workshops and the format of them is received very well. We have a lot of large birthday parties booked with the diary filling up with slots in May through to September. It seems that we’ve gotten the mix of products right now and we’re looking forward to the next six months.