5 Great Tips To Improve Your Shop – Retail Advice

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Shops on the High Street

The dust has now settled on this year’s Spring Fair, with cards packed away, gifts sold to their new gift shop homes and the last remaining lost visitors finally found in the many vast, sprawling halls. This post is the based on the feedback and excited questions I was asked as part of my seminar programme. My name is Chris Fox, hello, welcome back, can I get you a drink? Roasted Peanuts? Back Massage? No I went too far…

I work for Wishes of Cudworth a greeting card and gift shop in Barnsley owned by the rather lovely Julia Keeling, running their online platforms. I also have monthly column in Greetings Today Magazine and runs this very blog; Gift Shop Hub. A friendly resource centre for independent shops, small businesses and artists. Offering advice and tips on how best to use online marketing and traditional print to promote your business. Run by retailers for retailers, so here’s the story so far…

I had the pleasure on the first day of of the Spring Fair running Meet the Expert sessions based around the theme: The Balancing Act. How to promote your business online while running your shop. The one-on-one sessions were enlightening, with people from many different areas of our industry, including wholesalers, independent shops, a wedding event planner and more. All struggle with finding the time to promote their business while running it too but they’re still driven and passionate about what they do.
Having considered the problems small businesses face, here’s a few words of advice about promoting yourself online plus in the real world too:

5. Think Big With Your Branding

Never knowingly undersell yourself, yes, that sounds a little like John Lewis and their famous Never Knowingly Undersold catchphrase, but is true nonetheless. No matter the size of your shop, think big when it comes to your branding.

Maintaining a consistent corporate identity is important to ensure your shop is viewed as professional and trustworthy. Sticking to a limited palette of colours and fonts, uniform usage of your logo and maintaining the same tone of voice throughout your online platforms and printed promotional material will help build brand awareness.

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4. Understand Who You Are And What You Do

Have a clear understanding of what your business does and who your target audience is. If you can‘t simply explain to someone what your unique selling point is then you’ll struggle to create an effective marketing campaign.

Think of your company like a movie blurb, the best ones are simple and easy to understand like 12 Angry Men: “A jury holdout attempts to prevent a miscarriage of justice by forcing his colleagues to reconsider the evidence”, or The Silence Of The Lambs: “A young FBI cadet must confide in an manipulative incarcerated murderer for help on catching aserial killer”, and how about the Wizard Of Oz: “Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets then teams up with three strangers to kill again.”

Things to consider before you even pick up your mouse are:
Are you looking to sell online or in your bricks and mortar shop?
What are the products that make you stand out from the crowd?
What is it you do better than anyone else?

Sometimes by reaching for the largest possible target audience you can spread yourself too thin and lose your identity. It’s much easier to promote yourself as a Barnsley artist than simply just an artist. Take a tip from relatively-new and successful publishers I Like Birds, it’s clear and simple what they do – bird-based cards for those not in the know!

3. Know Your Products

This one comes from Mary Portas who was a keynote speaker at the Spring Fair. Mary’s frank, straightforward and humorous presentation was a personal highlight of the show for me. Her section on understanding your products and their background really struck a chord.

As independent retailers we’re not just selling products in our shops, we’re selling advice, stories and our expertise.

Think of questions your customers may ask:
Why do your candles have two wicks?
Are your bath bombs suitable for sensitive skin?
What’s the name of the artist who painted the picture?
Which anniversary card do I need?
Are your products made in the UK?

Mrs Bridges, who produce a lovely range of preserves and marmalades, have recently updated their signature jars with copper lids and matching bows. Not only does this tap into home décor trends but also ties into their past. The company still use traditional open copper jam pans to make their products which is now echoed in their packaging, reinforcing their heritage, values and history. Being aware of these creative decisions means you’re better equipped to sell their products.

Mrs Bridges Instagram

2. Invest Your Time Wisely

The question I was asked most in my Meet The Expert sessions was how do I run the bricks and mortar shop and still have time to work on building the online presence.

I’m afraid there are no quick fixes. Sorry! You do have to put in the time to see the rewards or pay someone else to do the work for you which, depending on who you use, can quickly become expensive. That’s not to say all SEO packages are a waste of time but no one’s going to run your online platforms for free unless you have a tech-savvy partner or pal.

With good time management and by focusing on the areas that you’ve already seen success within, you can slowly build a following online. If you’ve had good results on Facebook, then look at boosting a well-performing post to see more engagements. A quick post on to Facebook/Twitter/Instagram each day is little time spent to gain possible amazing results.

1. Keeping On Trucking

One of my questions to the audience was “Do you use social media?” The answer was often yes with the addition of “not very often” or “we did but don’t anymore”.

Any successful promotion is based on consistency, be it following up your leads or maintaining your current marketing. A Facebook page is a must-have these days but, unless you post regularly, it will only stagnate and not be seen.

There will be setbacks and, at times, it will feel too much but the rewards are there for those bricks and mortar retailers who put in the time to get online.


Chris Fox is the social media mastermind behind retailers Wishes of Cudworth. He writes the On The Line column for Greetings Today and has also developed Gift Shop Hub, a friendly resource blog for and by independent shops, trade suppliers, small businesses and artists offering advice and tips on how best to use online and traditional printed marketing to promote your business. Run by retailers/artists to provide real insights and to pass on our successes plus occasional missteps.