Retailing – a greater focus on SME’s?

In the last couple of weeks we’ve taken to our rubber duck, floated across the moat that currently surrounds MyCake Towers and headed out to explore some of the new retail opportunities that you, our MyCake community, have been using to reach new markets. This article looks at two in particular – the Princes Trust shop based in the City of London and the pop-up shop of craft makers in Heals.

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Heal’s modern craft market

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Tomorrow’s Designers opened in September 2013 and runs a rolling programme of pop up shops in the heart of the city of London. This month sees four Scottish fashion and accessories designers (Rebecca Torres, Kirsteen Stewart, Catriona MacAllister, Jill MacLennan) all of whom are part of the Fashion Foundry which is Scotland’s first fashion focused business incubator. In addition to the monthly pop ups Tomorrow’s designers features a range of interiors products and accessories by designers who have been supported by the Prince’s Trust at some point in their careers. Did you know that Trunki designer Rob Law was part of that family?

What we like about Tomorrow’s Designers is that it makes the output of these small design companies available in a location that has great footfall and where all the other retail offerings are high street chains of one form or another. It is certainly attracting attention from the workforce in the City and thus far at least sales are building well. In addition to providing a serious retail opportunity the team who run the store work with the designers to select the stock and prepare the window and point of sale displays. The designers have access to specialist business support to help them prepare for their pop up and to look at the challenges they may face around stock control, restocking, cashflow and production. It is rare for a retailer to be this transparent with a stockist but it is of course part of the point as far as the Princes Trust are concerned.

The ground floor pop up in Heal’s is very different. This curated selection of established designers not only brings their work to a wider audience but also their ways of working – various designers are camped out in store making their quilts and leather goods. Alongside the products are descriptions of the designers and their careers. Footfall is good as the pop up is located right inside the main door and you cannot miss the signage on the ground floor windows! A buzzing private view delivered good sales and there was a steady flow to the till as we wandered around.

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These two examples clearly demonstrate that there is a demand for unique and small production run goods amongst a mainstream customer base. Other examples such as Handpicked Hall in Yorkshire also reinforce the message that if space can be found in central shopping locations then the high street customer will try new things by designers they have never heard of. How much this interest in craft or young designers is born out of the successes of Etsy, Not on the Highstreet and Folksy we do not know but if there are empty shops in your town or city then perhaps it is worth finding a way to work with your peers to take them on even if only temporarily?

With that idea in mind you might want to look at the work of the Empty Shops Network as well as looking at your little black book and your plans for the year ahead?

Look out for an interview with Kellie Miller Arts on the blog soon. Sarah met artist Kellie in Brighton to find out about her first pop up gallery in the prime retail space of Brighton’s Lanes.

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