Last week we closed our shop. We opened it in November 2017 and closed the doors 5 months later at the end of March 2018. The lease was always flexible and we only had to give 6 weeks notice. Although technically it was a pop-up we wanted to see what it would be like to think of it as a permanent shop. Would we be able to make it pay for itself? How would we attract people to it? How would we staff it? and would it bring us new customers... these were the questions that we had.
So here are the answers to these and more questions. They might shed light on the reasons why we decided to close the doors and also maybe even provide insights to other brands considering a shop.
Why we opened a shop in the first place?
Our hypothesis for opening the store in the first place was that we have been going for 5 years as a brand but did not have any fixed place where customers could come and look at, touch and feel the complete range of our bags. Secondly, there was no place where customers could feel immersed in the brand and get an understanding of what Goodordering is all about.
How did we get people to come, and did it work?
We created a calendar of events to attract people to the store. They were local based events such as multi-lingual story time, kids haircuts and craft activities. This sort of worked in that people did come, but they did not really buy anything, which was not the intended purpose. The one thing that we did learn out of this was that marketing the event in itself was difficult and time consuming, so, even though we thought it would be an easy win to offer local and regular events to attract people to the store, we would probably have been better off just using our time and resources to attract the right customers to the store in itself.
How many people came into the shop?
On a regular weekday, sometimes a hand full of people came into the store. On an excel spreadsheet, we nerdily tracked every single visitor by time of day and what they came in for. Over the 5 months we did see a steady increase but purchases from complete strangers walking by certainly did not come anywhere near covering our rent and wages in running the store. Maybe during the week on a good day, 3-5 people would come in and on a weekend maybe 5-10 people. Our conversion rate was pretty high though with most people already following us on Instagram and therefore usually making a purchase.
What was the ROI (return on investment)?
We worked out how many bags we would need to sell to break even on the shop rent, it wasn't a huge amount and ideally, we would have paid for the shop this way. However, in the end, the biggest return on investment came from press. We were featured in a Facebook campaign which I don't think would have happened if we hadn't had the shop. This, in turn, has resulted in an uplift in sales of about 20% plus a huge amount of brand awareness which will hopefully convert to sales in the coming months.
Why didn’t we just open a store somewhere with cheaper rent?
The rent is just part of the costs of running a shop. It turns our staffing is also a big expense, even when you do have a dedicated team willing to put in those extra hours. Opening a shop in an area with zero footfall or the wrong footfall would have lead to poor sales as well as bad brand positioning. Our shop in Shoreditch made sense from a brand point of view as well. Our customers are in east London and the brand was born in Hackney, so having a shop in this area made the most sense.
What why a showroom is better for us right now?
Building a sustainable business organically is the most important thing for us right now, and this means using our money wisely. The showroom offers more flexibility and allows us to focus on growing the business to our global market. We have discovered through trading that 50% of our customers come from outside the UK, so developing our online presence and investing in digital marketing and collaborations is the right strategy for us.
Will we open a traditional shop in the future?
My feeling is that we will maybe one day open a shop, however, there are many other business models like pop-ups, store-in-stores and our favourite - markets & festivals that open our business up to the general public. Yes they are much more work and you can't just open a door, but they are much more flexible geographically and we can be where our customers are. We need to make decisions based on our observations of the radical changes happening in the retail landscape today.
What changes in the retail landscape are you talking about?
We are talking about the fact that most people are shopping online through their mobile devices. They are not only shopping online but they are increasingly shopping online through marketplaces such as Amazon, Trouva and Notonthehighstreet. They are able to get variety and specialisation at the same time. Ie, they can buy, for example, a dog collar from a company who only makes dog collars but get the service equivalent of shopping at a huge store with generous return policies and ease of transaction. These insights have given us, at Goodordering, a lot to think about!
This article was written by Jacqui Ma, founder and designer of Goodordering, East London Bag Company. Please leave your comments, we'd love to hear from you! and you are always welcome in our shop/showroom on Columbia road for a chat and a coffee!