Spilling the beans on what it takes to be successful – Abigail Ahern

Abigail Ahern's new blog

Spilling the beans on what it takes to be successful

Before I get started on the biz column our SALE starts today (10.30am) – yeehaw! Lots of discounts and lots of reductions oh and a heads up on our ceramic dog lights we have decided to discontinue them. So there are about 80 remaining and then that is that, oh and they are in the sale.Finito for ever more.Sounds like a crazy decision I know but I’ve moved on. I love them but I’m in a different head space these days and as they say once you’ve moved on you’ve moved on and things have to be kept fresh!

Down to biz. How can you make your retail store more successful than others you may ask? Are there secrets, tips, insider knowledge? Are people whose businesses are a roaring success cleverer than you, more canny? Of course not and I’m up for spilling the beans so here goes!

Merchandise

You are what you sell. Selecting products for your store is the most important, time consuming and expensive part of your business. It cannot be taken lightly or half-heartedly. Most important thing figure out your niche. I say this in my retail classes all the time, and in this blog a lot.  Many of us buy from the same trade shows but if you have a vibe you’ll be buying into that as opposed to getting swayed by the generics. Take Maison Objet as an example (one of the coolest shows around), I might bump into a whole host of buyers from Anthropolgie to Conran but as we are all channeling a different vibe and have our own unique filters on even though we are buying from the same supplier and some things might cross over, although  not everything does.

Please don’t think you have to go to the ends of the earth to find that all exclusive hand thrown bowl coloured with desert sand from the Sahara you don’t. You just need to channel your own vibe it’s basically as simple as that.

I don’t spend so much time buying anymore as we are now manufacturing but even so I subscribe to lots of foreign mags, read online newspapers from around the world, dig deep to find new artists and designers, see what’s out there. I might not buy into it but it might spark an idea. I am a pretty black and white type person I love something or I hate something there is no in-between with me. So that’s how I buy, and that is how I design. If I love it I know it instantly and I’m having it. I don’t buy into generics I don’t want a boring glass vase, you can go anywhere for that. I want a vase that is decorative or mouth blown in a beautiful colour that draws me in, or that’s supersized, or glazed beautifully. It has to have a point of difference.

Theme it

Like I said above set a vibe or a theme. Not an obvious one like nautical theme (please no) more subliminal. Anthropolgie are quite boho. Jonathan Adler champions the 70’s, we are quite glam there is an underlying theme. Customers then know what to expect and you can run with it across every area of your brand, in all your press releases and social media content. Relate your colour scheme to that vibe, your font to that vibe your logo even. Sticking to the theme will build a loyal customer base and create a unique experience all at the same time.

Be current always

I don’t mean follow trends, I tend to prefer to set them not follow then. Don’t run into the trap of selling something just because it’s in. I’ve ignored trends for years heck I would be challenging some Scandi country vibe if I followed them. Create your own path, be current, be open to change but chart your own path with your own aesthetic! Don’t think no one will buy from you because you are doing something differently its quite the reverse in fact.

Don’t always look at the bottom line

Don’t look at everything commercially it won’t actually make you more successful. I buy some pieces that I know won’t fly out like £15K chandeliers, and 5K salon sofas but it creates a buzz, gets people into the store and looks drop dead gorgeous. I manufacture some really large supersized pieces that aren’t practical and easy to fit into a container. The minute I stop buying/producing from the heart and buying everything commercially is the minute I quit! If G were reading this he would have a heart attack by the way. Cause of most rows – the bloody bottom line!

Retail is hard, one of the hardest gig’s out there but then the good news is that there are a zillion places the same so if you get it right you will stand out as we have done and hit the big time. Then something funny happens what once felt like a big, impossible dream actually feels like reality and you start setting more impossible goals so the goal posts constantly moved. You climb that mountain that looked so darn high only to reach the summit and then think why don’t I scale up that even bigger one behind it. It never stops. Funny that!

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