How to start... a gift shop
Sarah Williams is the co-founder of Figgins, a gift shop full of carefully-curated objects to brighten any home or occasion. Working with a variety of suppliers and finding the perfect items to stock the store with, as well as working with seasonal demands and ebb, can be a tricky science - here's how Figgins got started.
Location, location, location
We started our gift shop, Figgins, in the beautiful market town of Frome in Somerset. We picked Frome partly because we live there, but also because we could see its potential. Frome is a town that is becoming increasingly known for its many and varied independent shops and cafes, and the eclectic nature of the goods available.
We searched for premises for several months in the town and eventually found the location we had hoped for. Very central and close to car parks and on a road accessible to pushchairs and to people that don't do well with a lot of walking or just want to pop in somewhere easy to reach to pick up a gift or card.
We had been looking to start a shop for a while as we have always been passionate about retail and had run shops before. We love the whole process of choosing the stock, displaying the goods and meeting the customers.
Our philosophy has always been to sell beautiful items that don't cost too much money. We have price points that are realistic for most people and we sell items that people are proud to own or to gift to their friends and family.
Skills, experience and qualifications
I think to be good at retail you have to be absolutely passionate about what you do. You have to sell items you really love and would want to buy yourselves. We keep half an eye on trends, but mostly we just buy items that appeal to us. You never know who is going to walk through the door and whether they are buying a piece of artwork or a pack of napkins, you appreciate every sale.
Before we opened Figgins, we looked at other gift shops in the town to make sure we could offer something a bit different and spoke to people who lived locally to see if they thought there were gaps in the market to be filled. We came to the conclusion that we could definitely open a shop to sit alongside the other gift shops in the area and differentiate ourselves from the others.
We wanted to spend around £10,000 on opening the shop and that included fees, rent in advance, fittings and stock, and we achieved this.
We opened very quietly with no advertising. We wanted a 'soft' opening as we knew the shop wouldn't be the finished article straight away. Shops tend to evolve as you find out what works where and which products are the most popular, and a few months down the line it looks very different to how it looked when we first opened. Now we feel that the shop is looking much more how we envisioned and we have finally started promoting and advertising the business.
We actually ended up opening in the run up to Christmas. This wasn't planned, it just worked out that way, so we literally opened with a bang. As soon as we opened the doors people were Christmas shopping. This was great of course but it gave us a false reality of what an average day would be like and although we knew that come January, sales would drop off quite considerably, it was still a shock when that came to fruition.
After almost completing our first year now, we know which days are likely to be busy and which may be quieter and we are comfortable with the ebb and flow of customers. We absolutely love the shop and we are so, so pleased with how it is all going.
If you are looking to start a gift shop, we would say, do your research. Visit lots of trade shows and get a really good grasp on what your shop is all about, how you want to present it and what your price points will be. When you are budgeting, make sure you don't forget about adding in all the costs, things like water rates, electricity, phones and insurance.
Have faith in what you are doing and make sure your customers can see that you are someone who loves what they do and chooses their items carefully. It really makes a difference when people can see your passion for what you do.