Gift Shop Hub is back with our next Berni Parker Designs Shop of the Month winner. Today’s featured shop is Mintcake Mine, the only shop in the world that specialises in Kendal Mint Cake but they also sell other local gifts such as fudge, traditional sweets, biscuits, preserves soft toys (lots of sheep) and have a large distinctive range of greetings cards and post cards.
Hi Mintcake Mine, first up where are you based?
We are based in Bowness on Windermere in the Lake District which is the most beautiful part of England. We are near to England’s longest lake and Bowness is known as a “honeypot town”.
I am from Bowness and my wife is from Ambleside so we have lots of local knowledge for our customers if they need it.
How did you start out?
The Mintcake Mine started out as a joke. I was a bit bored with being asked “Just what is Kendal Mint Cake?” all the time when I worked at a local garden centre and started making things up. This developed into Mintcake Mining, a spoof website (www.mintcakemine.com) and then a USP for a Lake District Based shop. My wife also worked at the garden centre and had always wanted to open a card shop. We were fed up working for other people, so took the plunge.
What makes you stand out from the crowd?
We have the biggest range and display of Kendal Mint Cake available anywhere, we are also the only serious card shop in Bowness, a place with plenty of gift shops as competition but no real focus on quality cards in any of them.
What do you love about Berni Parker Designs’ cards?
The moment we saw Berni Parker cards we knew our customers would love them. There is a gentle sense of humour and wonderful, colourful pictures of people having fun that appeals to many age groups and certainly seems to tickle both tourists and locals alike.
What tips do you have for fellow small business owners?
Listen to your customers, be flexible but always remember your USP. If it works run with it and don’t be afraid to admit that something hasn’t worked, move on.
How do the social and economic issues impact your business?
We rely on passing tourist trade so weather is a huge factor. Too hot and people stay by the lake, too wet and people don’t visit the area. From November to April there is hardly any trade at all so we need official bodies to promote the Lake District as an “off season” destination which is something they do not do.
Even the new “World Heritage Status” of the Lake District makes no mention of this and shows no indication of how we will actually benefit from this status in quiet times.
We try to keep things simple and ensure the shop is clean, tidy, bright and welcoming at all times. Bowness is a crowded marketplace so just being a little bit different to the rest works well for us.
How do you market your business?
It is all about passing trade so there is lots of signage. We are in a shopping parade and recently we all banded together on signage and flags. We also club together for hanging basket displays etc.
Otherwise we have two websites, one for the shop (opening hours, location etc.) and the fun Mintcake Mining one. We have a Facebook page which we may develop more.
I shut our online shop down as the competition was too strong, Google Kendal Mint Cake and you will find all our suppliers fighting for online sales and the likes of Lakeland Ltd spending lots of money on advertising even though Mint Cake is a tiny part of their offer. We do creep up the Google rankings sometimes as people actually read our daft website and tell their friends. I would rather spend money in store for visiting customers than try to compete with big companies and their marketing departments. It is all about the actual visiting customer for us.
We also had Agnus Mint, the Mintcake Mine lamb who was part Go Herdwick: a sheep inspired public art trail in aid of the Calvert Trust’s 40th anniversary fundraising campaign.
Quick fire questions:
Favourite Song: Dominion by the Sisters of Mercy (I am an old goth at heart) .
Film: Betty Blue