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To High Street - Or not to High Street ... That is the question

Discussion in 'Retail' started by LittleWoodWorkshop, Sep 13, 2013.

  1. LittleWoodWorkshop

    LittleWoodWorkshop UKBF Newcomer Full Member

    Posts: 81 Likes: 30
    Hi all!

    As we all know the High Street is seldom a bustling place at the moment, we hear constant doom and gloom stories. This has put me in a bit of a predicament. We sell very unique and bespoke wooden products that get amazing feedback day in, day out.

    This isn't a cheap advert attempt but to see what I mean please have a quick browse on our website, www.littlewoodworkshop.co.uk

    We were looking and aiming for an online sales model and currently have an industrial unit for our woodworking. This is obviously a dusty, relatively uninviting place. However, we are having a good tidy up, leaning the place up a little and are going to section areas off so that we can start running kids woodworking sessions. At the same time we will display a selection of our products (basically a marketing opportunity whilst engaging with the community).

    However, it would be very difficult, if not impossible to combine our industrial unit with a retail outlet.

    So, do we jump onto the high street? One person who has been successful in a completely different sector advised us to open a box of venomous snakes instead of a shop ... that's his opinion firmly in place.

    However I can't help but think that shops such as Jessops, small dealers e.t.c have failed because they can't possibly compete with online retailers selling the same products, brought to your door, cheaper.

    But, the products we sell are complete unique, completely bespoke and designed to the customers specifications.

    So the big question is; If we were to open a shop in say, York (logistically best for us and probably our ideal target audience) and we displayed our products, had designers on hand to customise products would it be a success? I'd love to hear your views.
    Posted: Sep 13, 2013 By: LittleWoodWorkshop Member since: Feb 4, 2013
  2. JonathanSEO

    JonathanSEO UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 1,207 Likes: 373
    This is constructive so don't take it badly - you keep saying that your products are quality and bespoke but to me they look quite cheaply made. Perhaps it's personal taste but based on the products I have seen (I've been on this website a lot as you posted about Open Cart many times) I would not buy them. For example the wheelie bin cover - there's some FSC triple covers I saw online last week that are cheaper and look considerably better.

    I am interested to hear others thoughts on that. Perhaps the photography needs some work as that's all I have to go on.

    I don't think this product translates well into a high street store though. I don't see how you can do the volume to make money at the end of it.
    Posted: Sep 13, 2013 By: JonathanSEO Member since: Feb 3, 2013
  3. Faevilangel

    Faevilangel Website Critic Full Member

    Posts: 7,593 Likes: 2,407
    I wouldn't get a shop as you have to be able to cover the bills for 3/5 years (depending on your lease).

    In the next town to us, a woodworker gets a "pop up" stand for 2 months before xmas selling his wares.

    It's in the biggest shopping centre in the town centre and are perfect for gifts (he makes animals out of wood) and the retail from £5 to £600).

    He only has the rent for the 2 months and can promote his workshop / website as well in a prominent position.

    Also another thing to do is get to craft fairs etc, people go to these expecting to see custom made stuff so would be an ideal market for you.

    The town I live in has a fair in our "town hall" nearly every day (different types e.g. craft, books etc) and they get hundreds of visitors and 20-30 sellers.

    A shop would be overkill but being at craft fairs / markets will put you in front of the real buyers.
    Posted: Sep 13, 2013 By: Faevilangel Member since: Jun 29, 2009
  4. Alan

    Alan UKBF Big Shot Full Member - Verified Business

    Posts: 4,954 Likes: 1,353
    Just my opinion, don't bother with a high street shop. Get other retailers to do the work for you and take the pain of rents / rates / staff costs. Get garden centres and the likes to stock some of your wares.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: Alan Member since: Aug 16, 2011
  5. David1962

    David1962 UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 199 Likes: 66
    Well that's not going to work unless they can still make a profit selling their goods at half their current price.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: David1962 Member since: Feb 22, 2013
  6. emmylou74

    emmylou74 UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 476 Likes: 175
    I make my own product and have a shop that is part shop and part workshop. Would I do it again? No probably not. Its so hard running a shop and also making your own products and keeping upto date with website/social media etc. I really struggle with it all. But thats me :). Do I still have my shop? Yes. Do I plan on closing yet? No. I am about to hit my 2 year opening birthday :).

    Your business friend that is a success why would they not recommend it, if they are such a success?

    When it comes to retail, you either have that bug for it (or sickness I think it really is) or you don't. Asking others opinions, is asking them to visualise your business, and nobody can do that for you. Plenty of people told me not to do it. But I went ahead anyways. Best of luck if you do go ahead. Just make sure you do the sums and can afford it.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: emmylou74 Member since: Oct 21, 2009
  7. oldoakey

    oldoakey UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 199 Likes: 31
    Try and take any emotion out of it and think staffing - 2 lots of rents,rates, insurances etc etc for both the existing workshop and the retail unit and be realistic about your product range and sales levels you think you could achieve.

    At the end of the day you need a clear idea of what you want to achieve and do some profit & loss forecasts with different sales levels through a full 12 months then 3 and 5 years of trading. This would show you what profit was expected on a given sales level over a period of time, then any profit made reduce this by around 20% for tax purposes.

    Make allowances for when you want to go on holiday or if you fell ill for a while. All this means more staff, higher costs and also more hassle.

    At the end of that take a view and think long and hard if the end result is worth the extra money that you would be able to take out of the business if it did anything like what you hoped. Then on the other end of the scale look at the worst case scenario and see how much you could loose then weigh it all up.

    Shop are VERY tying both in the staffing and the lease, please do not take a lease lightly as these can come back and bite you if the business does not work as you assumed then the lease could be like a stone around your neck.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: oldoakey Member since: Jun 18, 2011
  8. arcon5

    arcon5 UKBF Ace Free Member

    Posts: 2,557 Likes: 495
    I'd say most small retailers fail because of over exited forecasts, poor capital, poor cash flow management and [email protected] contingency plans. So effectively through mismanagement rather than necessarily the product.

    The high street offers significant risks which often put people off, but risks can be controlled and limited. It's not unknown for such a venture to be setup as a new ltd company with trade agreements between each company. And a decent lease agreement in place. Landlords don't like these setups for obvious reasons but tenants are few and far between in some areas so a few months may be better than no months to a LL - so worth trying to agree a short term lease.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: arcon5 Member since: Sep 6, 2006
  9. herewegoagain.

    herewegoagain. UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 586 Likes: 242
    What about a market stall, somewhere with easy in easy out terms? could be indoor or outdoor, but good advice on here ! good luck
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: herewegoagain. Member since: Jul 4, 2012
  10. sirearl

    sirearl UKBF Legend Free Member

    Posts: 29,671 Likes: 6,596
    I would spend any money on your site to get more traffic and sales ,niche markets on the high street don't seem like a good idea at this time in its evolution.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: sirearl Member since: Apr 23, 2007
  11. joeptsearle

    joeptsearle UKBF Regular Full Member

    Posts: 132 Likes: 17
    As it has been mentioned above, I do think it would be best to establish yourself further online, you vastly cut costs in terms of rent, bills etc. Also you can access a much larger audience, it gives you the opportunity to scale your business infinitely and if you can successfully market yourself and grow your business locally, you may be in a position to go global eventually.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: joeptsearle Member since: Aug 9, 2013
  12. Mayor

    Mayor UKBF Regular Free Member

    Posts: 295 Likes: 95
    Why not try out ? A buyer can't feel quality from a picture on the internet. See if you can get an empty shop for a six month period and try it as a pop up ? I'm starting to hear more tales of woe from on-liners being stuffed up by amazon/paypal/ebay/distance selling regs/postal problems, and less from high streeters that are noticing less local competition, more interested customers they can engage with, a wiff of optimism about face to face shopping.
    Posted: Sep 14, 2013 By: Mayor Member since: Feb 3, 2009
  13. Thinehost

    Thinehost UKBF Regular Full Member

    Posts: 137 Likes: 38
    There's a thread on a different forum which touches on this topic - http://www.sowpub.com/forum/showthread.php?p=33184 - with advice from Mark Cuban - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Cuban

    I amn't sure that the photography is doing your products justice ... the lighting seems wrong and the quality of the wood, the product finish, etc, just doesn't seem to be shining through. (I have this problem with photos I take of some of our products which we sell online - they're improving but still don't just have that zing to seduce the online buyers :( .... )

    Perhaps we both need to test the difference using a professional photographer would make to our businesses :)

    Posted: Sep 15, 2013 By: Thinehost Member since: Oct 25, 2011
  14. sirearl

    sirearl UKBF Legend Free Member

    Posts: 29,671 Likes: 6,596
    Quite picture quality and size is paramount if you are selling on the web.

    Full page pictures where possible
    Posted: Sep 15, 2013 By: sirearl Member since: Apr 23, 2007
  15. LianneF

    LianneF UKBF Newcomer Free Member

    Posts: 807 Likes: 57
    We've been thinking a similar thing with our personalised bears as they are a product that you need to see and touch really and are all made to order but the rents here in Oxford are just too high so have been looking at shows. but struggling to find a happy medium, they are either cheap £20 stands in a village hall with say 10 stall holders and hardly any visitors or are at places like NEC and Olympia and cost over £1000. As ours are all made to order, it just seems a waste to make up stock hoping it will sell as we've made it as I bet 9 times out of 10 people will want different wording, colours etc so at these shows we would be paying for more of a display rather than have a product to sell which I think is risky and not sure how to progress further. It has been suggested to us to contact local shops to see if they would display some of the bears for us to advertise etc but as the bears need to ideally be designed online it's how do the shops get paid, flat rental per month, commission per sale, how do we monitor what sales come from each shop etc?
    I agree, I think you need to work on your website more and the quality of the photos etc and see how the wood workshops go before thinking about renting another premises. We are working on some new photos at the moment with kids holding our bears to try and show the size and quality better as this is hard to show online. As you sell toy boxes, maybe try and get pictures of them in kids bedrooms with kids playing with toys etc?
    Posted: Sep 15, 2013 By: LianneF Member since: Jul 18, 2007
  16. Private Detective London

    Private Detective London UKBF Contributor Free Member

    Posts: 60 Likes: 11
    It really depends on the location and/or High Street in question and I'm not familiar with York myself.

    I agree with some posters that the Craft Fair/Summer Event market may work better for exposure.

    A lot of what you are selling isn't necessarily impulse purchase items so I would expect people who heard of the products and were interested in them would be willing to travel to view/discuss bespoke items. If it were me that would be the route I would take, a display area of some kind in the unit is obviously essential and maybe advertising in the local press or attempting to see if they will feature your business in an article.
    Posted: Sep 16, 2013 By: Private Detective London Member since: Oct 27, 2008
  17. businessfunding

    businessfunding Guest

    Posts: 0 Likes: 0
    Don't listen to the doom and gloom alone - balance it against the many success stories out there

    there is absolutely no point judging your business against Jessops or Comet, they were big monoliths that simply hadn't adapted and had lost their USP

    The key to this lies in where your shop ism, what the demographic is and crucially, in negotiating good lease terms.

    It is some time since I went to York (like 20 years) but in my recollection it is the sort of town that lends itself to one-off items like these, though you might want to enhance your range with external products, or simply share space with a complimentary retailer

    The key to success is to be first and foremost a business person who retails, not the other way around.
    Posted: Sep 16, 2013 By: businessfunding Member since: Jan 1, 1970