With The Retas just around the corner, PGBuzz catches up with Nicky Goodman, owner of Paddock Wood Cards in Tonbridge, a finalist in the Best Independent Greeting Card Retailer (Home Counties) category of these important card retailing awards.
How did you get started in retail?
“I first worked in retail when I left school and enjoyed working with the public. I then worked in an office for a few years until I had my daughter. I started at Paddock Wood Cards when she was five months old in 2001 as I fancied a change from the office and remembered how much I enjoyed working with the public. I loved it and took especially to the balloon side really well. Seven years on, and a second child later, the previous owners retired and asked if I wanted to buy the shop. I can’t believe I have owned it for eight years now and worked there for over 15 years. My daughter is 16 this week!”
What products do you sell in your shop(s) and what are your best sellers?
“We sell a huge variety of products including cards, gifts, MTY plush, stationery, wrap, bags, candles, balloons and more recently the Creation Express personalisation machine. Balloons have increased rapidly for us over the last few years and we are currently pushing to do more corporate work. We sell cards from approximately 14 different card companies as I feel it is important to stay completely independent and choose everything myself. Our main stockist is probably UKG but I also love Nigel Quiney’s Pizazz range, Cherry Orchard’s Memory Lane Range and Abacus do a strong male range. The 99p Yours Truly range from Second Nature also flies out the door. We also try to do wholesale cards as we find people will buy more if we have a cheaper range too. Our cards start from 36p.”
What changes have you noticed in greeting card purchasing habits over the past few years?
“We have noticed more and more that people leave cards to the last minute especially all the seasons. It used to be the last three weeks leading to an event but we now find the last week is a nightmare busy time. I’m lucky that we have lots of older customers who love to buy in bulk and we even have a couple of people living abroad who buy a year’s worth of cards in one go!”
What are the greatest challenges to small businesses today?
“I would say the greatest challenge is keeping the customers happy. Trends change so quickly. I’m always cautious what gifts I buy and try not to buy in bulk as things go very quickly. I try and listen to what people want. For example a couple of years ago everyone wanted stationery so we had a move round to accommodate a small stand and stocked the things we have been asked for the most. It is also important to make the customer feel special, times are tough but if you listen to your customers and care about them they will return and recommend you to their friends. We regularly have some that just pop in just for a cuppa. It’s important to be part of the community.”
How do you make your business stand out on the high street?
“We try to stand out by going that extra mile. We regularly give to local charities and get involved with the community. We also organise a large light up ceremony within Paddock Wood and try to get local companies to help sponsor it to give back something to the area. We try to do nice window displays to attract people in to the shop and advertise what we sell on Facebook. We also have a lovely new website (www.paddockwoodcards.com) which gives people information on our products and has a balloon price menu to download.”
What three tips would you give someone starting out in retail?
- Be prepared to work hard for what you want
- Remember it’s not what we like but what the customers like. Always have an ear open to what people are saying they want
- Be happy and love what you do, care about your community and go that extra mile – customers will notice and appreciate it.
Pictured at top: Nicky Goodman (third from the right) and the Paddock Wood Cards team