Today I’m doing a special midweek feature (you’ll have to wait a week for the promised article on why writing a blog post is (a bit) like writing a sermon) on a local business that I personally use, just in case any of my readers are looking for an extra Christmas present (or all of their Christmas presents!) and because I know that they’ll get good service in the shop or using the online order form, because I’ve done both! A shameless plug there, but I love being able to share news about great businesses that I’ve actually used, and I have many friends who are fans, too! So, we’re saying hello again to Andrew Smith from Char Wallah. We first met Andy in November 2013, and when I asked him where he wanted to be in a year’s time, he said, “We would like to have another store and also explore the possibility of marketing through various trade shows around the country, taking the product to the people!” Let’s see how they’re getting on.
Hello again, Andy! So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
Char Wallah as a brand has exceeded our expectations to date, and we have a large regular customer base with new customers being introduced on a weekly basis from all over the UK. We also have customers in Europe and Middle East.
We are disappointed with the growth of passing custom and blame this on the position of our store within the Pavilions which has very little footfall [for non-locals, the shop is based in the bottom of a shopping centre which doesn’t have many full units downstairs. It’s lovely to have a little secret place to visit that no one knows about … but that’s not great for passing trade for the shop, obviously!]. Our ambition to open a second store elsewhere has taken a back seat, whilst we find a suitable position to locate our main store. We are adamant that the main store should remain in the City of Birmingham.
Our options are moving to another position within the City Centre or moving to another floor within the Pavilions, and we are currently assessing both options. Unfortunately the City Centre move has been hampered by the cost of Business Rates which I guess prevents a lot of bespoke small business from trading within the City Centre.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
We have explored marketing the business through trade shows, the biggest being the Malvern Spring. We had a lot of success with this, which justified all the hard work. We have now brought a vehicle and will have it fitted out for shows making it easier to attend lot more shows next year.
Our internet business is growing slowly. We have changed the address to charwallahtea.co.uk instead of charwallah.com, although both addresses work, (charwallah.co.uk was already taken when we formed the business) and we’ve noticed that since the change to .co.uk the web traffic has improved.
Any more hints and tips for people?
If we have any tips for other UK businesses it would be “if you invest in a web site use .co.uk and not .com”
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
We are still looking to open a second shop sometime this year and will start to explore the idea of franchising the brand.
That’s an interesting point about the .co.uk versus .com and shows that you really have to think carefully about that issue. I managed to get both when I set up this site, but I get far more interest in the .com version, presumable because I have a very international client base. But with a niche business that in many ways is very British (what with it being centred around tea, wherever that tea is from), I think it does make sense to have that .co.uk URL. It’s also important to choose a shop location with as much footfall as you can manage, although this can obviously be difficult in major cities with expensive rates. Anyway, I’m glad that their online ordering base is growing and really hope they get the move to an area with better footfall sorted out early in the year. In the meantime …
You can visit Char Wallah online at www.charwallahtea.co.uk and find out more about the HUGE range of teas, or order some for yourself or a friend. You can phone the shop on 0121 633 3681 or email the team. Or, if you’re in the Midlands, visit them in person in Unit 14 on the lower ground floor of the Pavilions shopping centre. You can sit on a comfy sofa in the shop and order a pot of any tea from the selection if you’ve got a few minutes to take a breath – we did that with friends the other weekend and it was lovely!
If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured (I have a full roster of interviewees now so am only taking on a very few new ones). If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my books, all available now, in print and e-book formats, from a variety of sources.