Many of you know Sue Dronfield Managing Director of the fantastic Baby Barn Pram & Nursery Centre in Rugby, she gave Nursery Today the low down on how she is continuing to trade during what is a challenging time for everyone
The Baby Barn Pram & Nursery Centre is still operating at a steady pace behind the scenes, in the initial lock down weeks of orders were still coming through from customers that had recently been to our store, lots of emails and messages requesting advice and we decided to operate an appointment system for customer collections for babies that are close to arriving. We are fortunate with our set up that we have our own car park right outside the store and I have been positioning boxes outside and checking off items with customers when they collect – with the odd demo done in the doorway too! I think my husband has the best job – he is self isolating in the fields on a tractor!!
I am in most days checking messages, deliveries and trying to catch up on paperwork and accounts. I feel we have to maintain contact with our customers even more so to keep reminding them we are here, especially as they may feel ordering on line is their immediate/only option if we don’t respond. I would just like to say a huge thank you to all the suppliers who have offered free drop ship, this has been really helpful and with some great bundle offers, incentives and promotions made available with good marketing pos, we have had some good sales. My customers have been very supportive, (even had a couple of boxes of chocolates) they have appreciated the personal touch and conversion rates have been about 90% – – on the negative side customer service seems to be busier which is a pain as it can be quite time consuming due to skeleton staffing with our suppliers. I know us ladies and most gents can multi-task but we do all have our limits, especially when there is only one of us running a store!
Some products we have found difficult to clinch a sale on as we have not been able to get the stock quick enough so it has been purchased on-line, but this would have happened anyway I feel. Our big challenge is that as we don’t sell on-line it is important for us to maintain a presence via social media and regular posts on our website, I brought in buggies and highchairs just before lock down and hope they will fly out when we re-open. Prams and car seats are the main part of our business and customers seem to be very aware of limited availability – we are pushing our payment plan option, free storage and offering live demo videos if required. When we officially open I have decided to initially review my opening times and stagger my staff’s working hours so we can operate an appointment system and control numbers in store at any one time, this is for the benefit of my team as well as the customer.
I have tried to be as flexible as possible, however working on my own for the last six weeks is starting to take its toll, feeling very tired and frustrated as I have still not finished clearing the stockroom and getting those hidden gems (not) on eBay – nice job for one of my ladies when they return to work!! We are being more active on social media, well my daughter Lottie has with 7 month old Freddie watching on, posting tips on keeping little ones busy and general information posts – I even ended up doing one of the Tic Toc dances, that’s how bad one of my days were.
We do have to remember to have a laugh every now and then.. now is the time to shout out why to support and buy from your local independent store – we can go that extra mile and do, it’s a stressful time for everyone, especially expectant mums and dads and I feel that the personal and supportive approach will go a long way in showing the benefits of buying local.
So to sum up it has been a mostly positive time with some challenges (for everyone!), but since when was being an independent retailer ever easy!