Talking shop… The Tutbury Present Company

PG Buzz caught up with Claire Jarvis and Nicky Stephenson, owners of The Tutbury Present Company in Staffordshire, winner of the Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer (Wales and Midlands) at the Retas 2017.

How did you get started in retail?

Nicky and Claire with their award at the 2017 Retas
Nicky and Claire with their award at the 2017 Retas

Our journey began almost 8 years ago in 2009.  A 25 year old business came onto the market in our local town of Tutbury, Staffordshire and we knew immediately that we needed to buy it!  We went about selling our old business whilst purchasing the Tutbury Present Company and the rest, as they say, is history.

What three tips would you give someone starting out in retail?

  1. Be prepared to fully emerge yourself in your business. When in retail, you live and breath it!
  2. You can’t get enough advice from people who are already in the industry. Why make the same mistakes they have made? Asking the right questions can not only save you time but a huge amount of money too. We recently discovered a 20 year old shop that had never even heard of small business rate relief! Find out all you can and keep a breast of business changes and new schemes, both locally and nationally.
  3. Research the area you are setting up your business in. We have seen many businesses come and sadly go, just in our small part of the country due to their lack of research. Also just because what you want to sell is your passion, it doesn’t mean its everyone else’s. Open up a store that lots of people will want to see and more importantly spend their money in.

What products do you sell in your shop(s) and what are your best sellers?

Inside the shop
Inside the shop

We are a combined card and gift shop (50/50) and stock a large number of products in our recently extended store. From a gift perspective, our lines from Jellycat, Joma, and Charlie Bears are fantastic sellers for us but they are eclipsed by our No 1 supplier who offers not only a top line of products, but also offers fantastic customer care and support ; East of India. More recently, we brought in a large selection of books from Allsorted.  They range from kids books to retirement books and everything in between.  In the first quarter, sales have been incredibly positive and they have been a big hit with all our customers, old and new alike.

With regard to our card suppliers, Pigment Productions cards, in all genres, have been and continue to be great sellers for us.  Also, Bexy Boo, Five Dollar Shake, Talking Pictures and our more recent addition, Megan Claire are all showing good positive sales

What changes have you noticed in greeting card purchasing habits over the past few years?

Buying and sending cards is, I think, ingrained in the British psyche! We as a country love it and it has remained strong over many years.  Sentiment is still very popular but this has evolved and modernised from long verses to shorter, catchier expressions. Social Media has had and continues to have a massive influence over this particular aspect of card design and customer choice. Other than that, customers still browse and purchase from our racks in the same way they always have.

What are the greatest challenges to small businesses today?

  • Introduction of new Pension regulations.
  • Rise of the national minimum wage which will continue to increase and impact all small businesses nationwide.
  • Significant price increases from many suppliers in the gift sector.
  • Business rate increases. This however, has not affected us yet,  but I understand is a huge problem for many small business up and down the country.


How do you make your business stand out on the high street?

As well as adopting a good, fair pricing structure, we believe customer care continues to be our number one priority here at Tutbury Present Company.  Its all about our customers and what they expect from us!  We also spend a lot of time and energy searching out unique products from smaller, less well known suppliers that stand out from the crowd.  Finally, we invest a lot of time actively being part of the community around us.  We often get involved in local town initiatives and also provide ongoing help to our annual Christmas Festival which is a huge event on the Tutbury calendar.

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