It’s Small Business Update – and today we’re chatting to Kath Kilburn from wool shop from Three Bags Full, who has been running her wool shop business for a while but has had an up and down time of it recently with her bricks-and-mortar shop. We first met Kath in June 2014, and updated in May 2015, when things were looking very uncertain – in fact, I wasn’t sure I was going to get an update at all this year, and am very pleased to hear that Kath is persisting with the business. These were her thoughts this time last year: “Well, I hope that in a year’s time we’ll be back in our old location welcoming customers old and new; we’re currently waiting to hear the terms and conditions the new owners of our old building will offer returning traders. So, for us it’s make or break time – next year we could be back in business and enjoying a boom time or we could be operating online only or we could be retired. At the moment we really can’t call it. We’re living in interesting times.” Let’s see how she’s getting on …
Hello again, Kath. So, are you where you thought you’d be when you looked forward a year ago?
No, sadly, we’re not at all where we thought we would be. We thought we’d now be settling into our old building after its refurbishment. However, the new owners have brought in new terms and conditions, such as mandatory 7 day opening, (impossible for cash-strapped sole traders!), which have made it impossible for many of the original traders to return. So as the lease on our interim premises ends this month, we’ve closed the doors and are currently trading mostly online.
What has changed and what has stayed the same?
Our way of trading has changed to mostly online, altho’ we’ll have a table in the Old Bank foyer the first Saturday of each month and will continue to attend craft fairs with knitted garments etc. I did float the idea of selling locally on a party-plan basis but didn’t get a massive response. I might suggest that again when the winter approaches – I think it could be fun. What’s stayed the same is our commitment to offering a great and speedy service to all our customers with exemplary customer care.
What have you learned? What do you wish you’d known a year ago?
If I’d known from the start that we couldn’t return to The Piece Hall then I’d have taken different premises during the refurbishment period. We went into The Old Bank thinking it was somewhere the business could tick over while the refurb took place. It’s certainly a beautiful building, but it’s not best placed for long-term success or building up a clientele, as it still looks like a bank from the outside. More generally, the whole process of having a shop has opened my eyes to many things connected to the psychology of buying – the main one being that people seem to really like the idea of getting a bargain when there’s a short-term promotion on, even tho’ that bargain might cost more than another shop’s constant price. I’ll never understand that!
Any more hints and tips for people?
Try to position your shop where you can attract both tourists and locals. We have a loyal band of local customers but we’ve really missed the tourist trade this last couple of years. Wool’s such a specialist, minority interest that you need a really big customer base to make it work. Also, make sure you remember during the more remunerative colder months that trade will probably be very slow during the summer and allow for that financially.
And … where do you see yourself and your business in a(nother) year’s time?
At the moment it’s really difficult to say. We’ll be doing some SEO work on the website to make it more visible and adjusting the lines we have on offer and see how it goes from there. Watch this space!
There’s nothing I can do except wish Kath the best of luck and urge you all to share details of her online shop. I really hope she manages to keep things going, but her persistence so far strongly suggests that she will. Good luck, Kath!
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