Thursday 31 January 2013

Whats your W.O.M.M?

I was asked this question a while back, just after I had opened the shop. Kit, who runs the delightful Fish Shed by The Bell in Ticehurst on a Saturday wanted to know what mine was. His was a little wooden fish on a piece of string and he said people loved being given them. At first I wasn't quite sure how to answer. For starters what did it mean? He explained to me that every business should have a bit of word of mouth marketing (WOMM) and I did have to stop and think exactly what mine was or what it was going to be. What was it about my business that would get people talking and coming back for more? 

Kit in the Fish Shed

After some deliberation I answered that it was my window and its display. Bearing in mind that by this stage I had only done two so wasn't sure if I could continue the momentum, but, it was the one thing that people seemed to always comment on. So there began my quest. Every time I do a new window I am filled with a sense of dread and excitement because people always react to whatever goes in there next. Sometimes it revolves around a theme thats current, other times its a happy amalgamation of whatever I have recently bought. Sometimes its a distinct colour palette, often seasonal or a reaction to how I'm feeling at the time. But it has to have that bit of retail theatre, it has to be different and it has to reflect the personality of the shop.

My biggest hit ever on our Facebook page was a picture I posted of my Christmas window, newly finished. 

The neighbours always comment. People drive by and then comment on social media. Its a talking point. Maybe one day it will even pass into local retail folklore, who knows. But if my little shop is remembered for one thing in the years to come then I would be honoured if it were for the windows. I guess I've found my WOMM.

So here is a roll call of all our windows to date. There have been nine altogether since we opened, including our latest 'Spring Greens'. And yes they all have names. Next month we will celebrate our First birthday so are going to have to come up with something suitably fantastic. Although, it may have to revolve around a pair of giant papier mache chickens that I bought out of the back of a van from a guy who had popped over from Germany. Whatever it may be, you will just have to wait and see!

Fresh Start - New Beginnings

Ethnic Odyssey

Faded Grandeur - Rule Britannia

Hothouse Haberdashery

Summertime Blues

Harvest Festival

Ode to Joy - Joy to the World

Flash Sale

Spring Greens

Thursday 17 January 2013

A spot of 'Retail Theatre'

Whilst watching Newsnight the other night they mentioned a phrase that made me prick up my ears and shout at the screen." I do that, I do that" and I honestly believe I do.  'Retail theatre' is a way of describing a traditional type of shop-keeping with a modern twist. A kind of back to basics with a healthy dose of English eccentricity. A special experience that puts the joy back into shopping. A great dollop of old fashioned customer service served up in a creative and stimulating environment. And apparently thats what we want.

Alastair Hendy's Homestore, Hastings (Photo Alastair Hendy)

For many, shopping is a physical experience. We need to interact with what we are buying, it is part of the pleasure of the whole thing. The problem is that people don't want to feel overwhelmed by it all. A pared down, carefully curated, shop full of wonders is infinitely more appealing than a megatropolis filled with never-ending shelves of the same thing. Consumers are more discerning than they have ever been. They know whats what. And if they don't like it, they will simply turn on their heels and walk out or just not even come in.

Loop, London (Photo by Loop)

So what do we want? Part of it is to do with the art of seduction. Yes, you want to be seduced from the moment you walk into an establishment. You want to feel that dizzy, giddy sensation of being somewhere that excites you. That is why the future of the little independent is so important because it is very often here that the magic and this retail seduction or theatre can really happen. Think of your favourite shops and see how many of those are one-offs. Traverse any small town or larger rural village now and you will see a sea change in shop keeping. Springing up are little enclaves of cool, havens of inspiration; of places that you want to while away a precious half hour, many off the beaten track.

The Old Haberdashery, Ticehurst (Photo by Sonia Boriczewski)

And this is where community comes into play. To survive, these little shops need to create their own eco-system . They have to balance each other and support each other. The Americans have already embraced this celebration of community shops and Mary Portas recently tweeted about the possibility of having a 'Small Business Saturday' where locals try out shops on their doorstep, just as they do across the pond on an annual basis.

Ruston House Interiors, Ticehurst (Photo by Ruston House)

I am lucky in that my shop is nestled amongst other gems. There are not many of us but we all add something to the pot. We cross-pollinate as it were through the delights of social media and local events. It is very empowering to be part of something like this and it helps to support you in good times and bad. And that is where the 'retail theatre' comes into play. Without it our customers will choose to shop elsewhere. Keep it fresh, keep it simple and keep it fun. And above all smile!

King Johns Nursery, Etchingham  (Photo by King Johns Nursery)