Now that ‘freshers’ week’ is over and we are most definitely ‘back to school’, the onus is on making the most of this ‘final term’ in the run up to Christmas, PG Buzz delves into the ‘report cards’ of leading indie retailers. South coast-based Deborah Tingay, owner of Southbourne Cards, Bournemouth and Sarah Holmes of Pencil Me In, Elgin up in the Scottish Highlands reveal what grade they would give trade so far this year, what has been the most testing subject, what they would thank ‘teacher’ for and how they are hoping to achieve top marks in the festive run-up.
Deborah Tingay, owner of Southbourne Cards, Bournemouth:
Making the grade: “B for brilliant start to the year. Positive improvement in grades for sales, stockholding and design.
Well presented – new lighting and flooring.
Always polite – dedication to customers.
Attendance – best sellers kept in stock as that is the key to great sales.
Sometimes runs in the corridor – the excuse is always Christmas prep.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “Geography – where to put the stock? We were burgled and were advised to close a secondary sales room for the safety of the sales team. The resulting changes have made the shop easier to operate and customers can find the items they are looking for effortlessly. It was a mountain that we overcame and it has created a much improved work environment.”
Thank you teacher: “I would thank my history teacher as we have built on good sales last year by focusing on historic sales’ successes. We have been rewarded by working on our product mix and customer wants.”
Festive run-up: “Preparation is indeed the key and we launched 16’ of linear space to Christmas cards in September. The early sales have been encouraging. It’s really a soft launch for those early birds. Among the cards sold are those going to service personnel in The Falklands and to grandparents in Australia.
Our introduction of IC&G Christmas, Pigment, Paper Salad and a strong new gift offering should have a very positive impact on sales this year. We’re very upbeat.
We are in the planning stage for our Christmas events, which usually involve mince pies, mulled wine and beautiful music. Ooh, I love Christmas, even on a sunny September morning by the seaside!”
Sarah Holmes, owner of Pencil Me In, Elgin:
Making the grade: “I would give trade a B- grade. We’ve had a good summer which really helped correct the position we were in at the end of April (very poor!). September and October is always tough for us, but we are confident Christmas will be good. Our wholesale and other B2B work keeps us busy and we’re looking to expand on these fronts.”
Most testing ‘subject’: “Consumer confidence has been most challenging as I think we can all agree it’s been low now for a long time. Our customers are still treating themselves when our best sellers are in but are perhaps less inclined to try new products or add another notebook to their collection. We’re expanding our collection of instore personalised gifts on the run up to Christmas to help with this.”
Thank you teacher: “We give thanks for our loyal customers and our online following – they literally are the best. We have had a number of customers who have followed us our social media and then make special trips to Pencil Me In over the summer. Hearing these types of stories absolutely makes our day! Our loyal locals have been taking full advantage of our new instore foil printed personalised cards for all sorts of occasions.”
Festive run-up: “I am probably better prepared than any other year. There has been lots of ‘best practice’ sharing going on in the My Shoplife Facebook group, which I have taken lots from. I am a very late buyer for Christmas and don’t start till July/August with my main buying being in September. We put stock out from the beginning of October. We have bought lots of single Christmas cards and wrap this year, especially as our giftwrap service is much more well-known across town.
Not sure about Christmas trade with the ‘B’-date looming at the end of October – part of me feels it could be the killer for a lot of small shops – or if it’s delayed beyond Christmas will everyone come out spending?”
Top: Deborah Tingay, owner of Southbourne Cards (left) and Sarah Holmes of Pencil Me In, Elgin.