Two years ago, I very nearly took on the lease of a ‘bricks and mortar’ shop. I was ridiculously excited. I created a gorgeous Pinterest board of ideas for decorating the interior and I started collecting people interested in sharing the space and selling their handmade goods with me. The property was in a great location; just off the market square in a popular tourist town. I started to look into the costs.
Rent: £15,000 a year (five-year minimum term)
Business rates: £1000 a month.
Staff: £8 an hour.
Furniture, signage, surveyor, solicitor, utility bills, till, bags, security system…
On top of the costs for the shop itself, I would have needed to pay for transport to and from the property, childcare whilst I was out of the house. I would need to invest in advertising to drive customers to the new business; footfall is good but there are lots of other lovely shops in the town to browse too. I could only open the shop a limited number of hours as no customers would be wandering past at 2 am and I could only work so many hours or the whole point of leaving teaching to find a ‘work-life balance’ would have been undone.
Eventually the bubble of excitement burst. The financial commitment was going to be just too massive. I decided to focus on my Etsy shop instead.
For a few months, I faffed around a bit and earned a little bit of pocket money. After six months, I opened my second Etsy shop to separate my handmade items from the craft kits and started to take things more seriously. I’ve not looked back since.
I treat my shop like the real ‘bricks and mortar’ shop I dreamed of. I spend time making it look good. I take time over my signage and arranging my shop window. I arrange my items carefully on the shelves to make them look appealing and I dust those shelves. I staff my shop for as many hours as I can and I chat with customers as soon as possible when they ask me a question. I use social media to shout about my shop and to invite people in for special celebrations and promotions. My customers have become loyal and choose to hang out in my VIP area to chat about what they have purchased and what they’d like to buy next. I pop in regularly to say hello and to check that everyone is happy. I regularly add new stock and rearrange the window display to show it off. I chat with other business owners in the area and swap tips and ideas. I do a lot of this in my PJs with a cup of tea in my hand and no-one cares!
In order to make a success of an E-commerce business, you have to treat it like a ‘real business’. Sitting back and waiting for the money to roll in doesn’t work. You must put in the research, apply your research and keep tweaking until it starts to work. Hard work + great products = success.