Before I wax lyrical about local products and shopping, it’s important to recognise that retail is tough at the moment.
If we break even this year we will have done well. The team at Hopes of Longtown will have gone above and beyond. Our sales and average basket spend is still higher than before the Covid-19 pandemic and gross profit is surprisingly holding up better than anticipated.
But our overheads are stripping out any net profit. Some of the challenges we face include energy price increases, rising delivery costs, product availability and increased monthly overheads with a tourism season. On top of that, we need to be thinking about who our suppliers will be in six months’ time and looking for complementary opportunities into which we can invest.
I am in a phase of redesigning how we understand our business. I want to know what to expect and what we want as business owners. One of the key pillars for me will be continuing to showcase local products. While cheese and butter will likely be too expensive for some customers, we expect ice cream to grow in the summer. Our pop up local soft scoop ice cream, which is in its second season now, is a real point of difference for the store.
From our EPoS data we can see general everyday items – we call them ‘classic’ – sell the best. That’s what you would expect for a small village shop. After that, the bestselling products are those that are made within 30 miles of the shop. And that’s not just food and drink. Postcards and greetings cards celebrating our picturesque location have also done well.
When making decisions about a new product, I have to ask if I think an item is pushing at the limits of our customer spend. If it is, I ask myself a secondary question: would it be given as a gift? If it wouldn’t, I tend to not purchase it unless recommended by a customer.
Currently, we’re finding that local suppliers have fewer billing errors, they help to promote our business on social media and they bring in a better net profit margin than national suppliers. In these currently challenging times, they are the point of difference to get customers coming back for repeat visits.
I would recommend any retailer finds 10 to 12 local products that suit their customer demographics. A success we’ve had recently is a nearby allergy therapist and reflexologist who has been recommending her customers visit our shop to buy locally made Bach Remedies. Last Wednesday afternoon, we had three customers come from her recommendation alone.
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