Gift Focus - Jan/Feb 2020 (Issue 117)

64 For further information, call +44 (0)1905 622 509 or visit of the products themselves and how they’re priced, topped off with service, and we strive to do our very best with all of these elements. We also like to keep embracing the relative ‘smallness’ of our business and the importance of the personal touch. We also have a key focus on keeping prices as reasonable as we can for all customers at all times, whether they are a small independent buying in singles or a multiple retailer buying in several dozens. Our packaging policy is a key part of this and always provokes a discussion or two at trade shows. Roughly half of our customers like to create stories with a brand display in-store and use packaging. Other customers concentrate on their own brand development and will de-tag products and have their own packaging. Therefore, we decided that we would supply our packaging differently and we have three styles that we sell at cost price. This means that customers can choose the style and price point they like (from a cost-effective pillow pack to a gift bag or luxury gift box) and in the quantities they want. But if they don’t need it, they don’t have to pay for it (‘free’ packaging will always be accounted for somewhere in the costing process), pay for the delivery of it or dispose of needless waste. How are you finding the current economic climate in the UK? Is it affecting business? Anyone that buys in foreign currency will understand how hard the Brexit years have been. Plummeting Sterling and the usual cost increases from suppliers have really squeezed margins. If the cost price is too high for a product, we work with our suppliers, looking at how to change the materials or the design to bring it down to a price that’ll be suitable for our market whilst retaining the integrity of the design. We’ve definitely done more of this in the last couple of years than previously. I think I’m far from alone in being sick to death of the political playground and its inhabitants, and happily from our point of view it has been business as usual with regards to sales and growth despite the Brexit excuse popping up regularly. I’m writing this at the start of December so by the time this article has been published who knows what will have happened. Do you visit trade shows? What are you hoping to achieve when you exhibit? We participate at three shows a year; Spring Fair, Autumn Fair and Home & Gift Harrogate. The latest edition of Spring Fair will be my 15 th ! We try and evolve the brand every year with tweaks to the exhibition stand, just visual touches to enhance the appeal and hopefully catch more eyes. Trade shows are hard work for exhibitors and visitors alike but they can be great fun and it’s the perfect forum for getting feedback to what you are doing as a business. I love getting the products in front of customers and seeing what they think and catching up with them face-to-face. What other sales channels do you use? Our website is the primary business tool and heart of the business as it’s also our operating and customer management system. Orders come in online at all times of the day and night, alongside those from our sales agents and the customers that like to order over the phone. We currently have four self-employed sales agents covering Scotland, the north-west, the south-west and south of London and the South Coast. They’ve all really embraced Miss Milly and do a fantastic job representing the brand in their territories. Do you have any advice for new businesses starting out in the world of gift? For suppliers, I’d say research your market online and visit different kinds of stores before you take an expensive plunge. If there’s something similar on the market already, how is your offering going to be different and better? Think about the costs and methods of making, shipping, storing, marketing and dispatching your products. What’s the bare minimum you can turnover to survive for the first six months to a year and is that feasible? For those starting out as a retailer with their first shop, make sure you understand all the costs from rent and rates to service charges. utilities, insurance, EPOS and payment providers. What hours will you be open and do you need staff? And really think through your product mix and how you’ll site and display it in-store. Something I always say to customers stocking Miss Milly for the first time is to buy in at least twos or threes of a SKU so that you can really tell if something is a good seller rather than a freak purchase. What can we expect in the future from Miss Milly? More of the good stuff and keeping the jewellery designs fresh and relevant. We will keep trying out new accessory products like the magnetic brooches, keyrings, scarf pins and cufflinks to see what does and doesn’t work for the brand. And with the brand itself, we will keep tweaking and improving. This year we’re introducing new POS and have enhanced our sales leaflet to make it more useful to retailers. We’re also beavering away on a new website, which, as most readers will know, is like having a whole second job to contend with, but it should hopefully sort out some of the niggles and reliability issues with the current site. And we’d like to increase the number of agents we work with, to better service more customers over the UK. Overall, it’s just carrying on with steady, consistent growth and the supply of great value, gorgeous products.