I am always being asked how is business almost as if we are a barometer of how things are during these difficult economic times!
My stock reply is that our Retail Store business remains challenging as we like most other retailers struggle with footfall on the High Street. It seems to me that those customers that are visiting the store are spending money there are just fewer of them. Having said that our Wedding Gift List business has been much better this summer. More Brides appear to be reverting to the more traditional option of wanting useful Wedding Presents for the home reversing the recent trend of Holiday/Honeymoon and even Charity donation options.
As I say to our loyal staff who can get frustrated at the lack of customers in the store, we cannot have it both ways. The Havens Internet business, which they can see for themselves, is still growing at a great pace and as the consumer uses the Internet to Browse and Buy goods this inevitably has an impact on the footfall in all High Streets.
Retailers should not be too surprised with this change in consumer shopping habits. Changing social priorities with leisure, family activities and entertaining pushing Shopping lower down the list. This coupled with High Streets becoming more homogenised with little inspiration, aspiration and in many cases poor car parking facilities and access as Local Councils strive to move traffic away from town centres – a strange strategy as Retailers need busy High Streets and people move around by car!
The success of our website to date can be attributed to a number of factors. The revamp of the Site in November 2008 by Leigh Mason and his team at Silkstream means that is much easier for customers to navigate and find what they are looking for. We have also outsourced our Web Marketing to Leigh which is making our adword campaigns more focused and therefore more cost effective. We have daily contact to discuss strategy and to analyse results. We are also grappling with the social networking side too with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all on our radar.
The areas we are receiving good orders in are Tableware Dinner Sets and Crystal Wine Glasses with huge growth in these specific areas. We also have good orders on Giftware and Collectables but these are areas that we feel we have good scope for improvement.
So our business continues to develop and change, who would have thought 10 Years ago that a 100 year old Retail Store would be so advanced in the technological side of Internet Trading. We will continue to improve the offer in the store with a new more Contemporary Home and Gifts Section opening in October, we have faith that Footfall will improve and revitalise the High Street to an extent – Though I fear not back to the heights of recent years.
The real growth plans for Havens lie in continuing to improve the Offer, the Service and visibility of the Havens Website. I personally welcome all comments to help us make these improvements.