Business over the past year has been ‘interesting’ for everyone. What with Brexit, ‘The Beast from the East’ and what seems like the longest winter ever, you’ve got to try and remain positive and look forward to a good summer! Being an independent, you can really make yourself stand out from the big chain stores by providing not only different and maybe handmade gifts and greetings cards, but great customer service too. (I don’t think many independent shops have self-serve machines installed yet!) We are here to help and speak to customers - it’s not just another transaction to us, we appreciate every sale.
If you don’t know me, I run Top Drawer Gifts, based in St Andrews (a tourist town) so we are starting to get busy for our summer season now. We sell thousands of greetings cards and are known within St Andrews for our beautiful, handpicked and hand finished card selection. These are from some of the best publishers in the UK and we stock some fabulous Scottish publishers too, like Pink Pig and Silk by Lilias. With the town being a big tourist and golf destination we’ve even attracted our fair share of celebrities – Craig Cash from the TV programme The Royle Family bought some mugs recently and Graham Norton has window shopped here too! Sadly I didn’t get a chance to nip out and say hello to him.
Our best sellers are cards such as ‘Silk by Lilias’ cards, coasters and prints which sell out every summer when the tourists arrive and want to take a little bit of Scotland home with them. In addition, Glass by Kathryn, which I sourced back at the Show in 2012, are loved by tourists (and locals) and the fact she makes it at her studio here in Fife, which is even better!
Even though shops on both side of us closed over the last year we are doing fine. Social media in retail, and in particular Instagram, has really grown over the last year and can’t be overlooked for some of our success. I’m finding new suppliers through Instagram alone and this is an avenue which should definitely be explored if you are an Independent retailer. The bigger suppliers are on it, but also smaller companies too, who have maybe just started out. It really is a great platform for retailers and suppliers to connect with one another and is a huge positive for business.