In celebration of Indie retail month I thought I’d share with you some of the highs (& lows!) of opening a new shop. A topic close to my heart as I went through this very process just a couple of months ago when I opened the latest branch of my ladies shoe shop, Modish, in Cambridge.
Lets start with some context. I came into retail almost 4 years ago when I bought Modish, which was an existing business. I didn’t make a big deal of taking the shop over, not least because I was new to retail, and, to be frank, more than a little clueless. So I decided to go for a low key relaunch until I felt I knew what I was doing! But this time I really wanted to make a splash, so I starting looking into how to do just that.
Planning, asking others, speaking to experts – proved to be invaluable!
I already employed Clare Rayner as my retail guru, so she was my first port of call – and together we worked on draft 1 of a project plan. A contact of hers,Becki Rowe from Retail Marketing Maxim, (who has opened more shops than I have pairs of shoes – i.e. a lot!) kindly gave me a couple of hours of her time and the benefit of her experience to tighten up the plan.
Armed with all this information, along with a slightly optimistic nature (!) I then set myself the rather challenging deadline to open just 7 days after signing the lease. This was only feasible as I was inheriting a shop that needed minimal work, but even so, in the words of a corny football pundit, it was a Big Ask!
But we did it! And whilst it was really hard work, it was worth it. Not least financially as I really didn’t want to be paying rent on a shop that wasn’t trading for a moment longer than I had to.
The one thing that everyone had said – BT will take ages on the phoneline – expect that to hold you up…
So how was it? Exhausting. Exhilarating. But not all that stressful for most of the time, mainly because with the plan I knew what I was doing and when I was supposed to be doing it…
I say most of the time, because there was one thing that almost derailed the launch. The phoneline.
I’d applied for the existing telephone number at the premises to be transferred to me over a week before I signed the lease, i.e. two weeks before we opened. This should have been plenty of time as I’d been told it should take a maximum of a week. As it turned out the phone started working at 2pm Friday when we were due to open at 10am the next day. And it was only once the phone was working that we could install the PDQ machine! So I was dusting down my manual card machine and digging around for credit card slips just in case we couldn’t take electronic payments! Which wouldn’t have been a complete disaster, but not the most professional image for a new shop!
So having survived, here are my Top Tips for a successful launch:
Get advice before you start.
This could be from a retail expert and/or another shop owner who has held a launch that you admire. But unless you’ve done it before you’ll almost certainly forget to do important stuff. This will save you time, money and grey hairs!
Refit – try to book people who can be flexible if dates move.
Because they probably will! I do a lot of networking so many of my suppliers for the shopfit were prepared to do this as they knew me. Just one of the many benefits of networking – but that’s a tale for another blog!
Make setting up the Phone line & Broadband your BIGGEST priority
This was the best tip I got from both Clare Rayner and Becki Rowe. As soon as you’re close to closing in on a particular premises try to get on to BT to ensure the phone line is up and running as soon as possible. They may well be able to do nothing until you officially take over the shop, but at least you won’t be starting from scratch. They should also be able to give you an estimate of when the line will be ready. If my experience is anything to go by, add at least week to that!
Knowledge is Power.
Talk to the letting agent and any friendly shopowners you can find to establish the quirky things about your area. It was only once I did this that I realised I needed to give the council 8 weeks notice to get signage up, that the only day I could freely move my stock to the shop was on a Sunday.
You will need a lot of help, and you’re more likely to get it if you are friendly and helpful!
Keep it simple
Unless it’s a really complex opening you’ll probably will find a simple excel spreadsheet will suffice for the plan. Just make sure you have deadlines against every item or action and that you regularly review and update it (as opposed to writing it, thinking to yourself ‘job done’ then leaving it in a drawer to fester!). A comments section came in handy for me too.
Having said all that try to have a plan B for the important items on your project plan in case things go wrong. And it certainly pays to physically print off a list of useful telephone numbers in case disaster strikes and either the power goes off or broadband goes down and you need to contact someone in a hurry eg plumbers, electrician, IT etc
and finally… Launch with a bang!
Probably the best promotion I did for my new shop was to employ some actors who wandered around Cambridge dressed as characters from the Wizard of Oz on the opening day. It got me a load of free publicity, takings on Day 1 were superb and my customers are still talking about it 2 months later!
This blog was written by Sarah Decent, proud owner of a beautiful new Modish store in Cambridge! Sarah is focused on opening a number of Modish stores as well as sprucing up the legacy outlets from the previous owner. Having gone through the process once she’s now got it sorted to do again and again!