Making hay while the sun shines - Fiona Fabien, Papyrus Gift Shops

If there’s one word we could sum up with trading in this past year it would be unpredictable! However, despite this we are pleased to say that overall, we are up on our sales figures in comparison to last year. The biggest factors on whether business is good or bad is the weather, and politics, and these factors will remain in the coming year. The uncertainty that Brexit is causing isn’t going to go away any time soon – deal or no deal - and inevitably it will continue to affect confidence and sterling. However, when the sun shines our customers are out in their droves – the last two weeks have been great – as was the summer months in 2018 so we are keeping fingers crossed for another good year weather wise.

As we’re a Glasgow West End gift shop most of our customers are local. Our footfall is hugely affected by the weather, and last summer we enjoyed a bumper time, and even the last few weeks have been well up on last year as the warm spring sunshine brings folks out onto Byres Road and the surrounding parks and attractions. As the café culture has increased over the years in the Byres Road area we have also seen an increase in footfall. Parking restrictions have been in place for almost 2 years, and rather than see the anticipated reduction in footfall, we have seen the opposite effect as there is now more turnover in the parking bays, rather than city commuters hogging the parking all day.

One of the big issues we see and hear in retailing is the environment, which concerns not just our customers but also our staff. It is changing the way people live and what they spend their money on and has influenced our day to day running of the business from how we dispose of our waste to which products we stock. On the shop floor we have also invested in new lighting throughout to save energy and reduce our bills. The type of customers we attract are really concerned about their impact on the environment and shop accordingly. Replacing single use products with sustainable alternatives and cutting out plastic is big on the agenda. Stainless steel bottles from Chillys, reusable coffee cups from Eco Chic and E-coffee have seen a 500% increase in sales and beeswax food wrap has been a surprisingly good seller considering the price.

What determines what people buy is hugely affected by lifestyle trends. Local and Scottish themed products always have a relevance in our shop. We have the advantage that the Scots love to buy local Scottish themed gifts and cards, usually sourced at the Scottish Trade Fair, both autumn and spring, Ness accessories, owned by Kiltane, always sell well as does the tweed range from Leather Guild. The Scottish humour range of greetings cards from Doricmor and cards and gifts from Brave Heart never fail to put a smile on your face and also sell extremely well.

This year we are hoping and aiming for another excellent year from tourism – sterling is still weak, which makes it very attractive to foreign visitors. Word on the street is that many local people could staycation this year, because of the uncertainties of Brexit and travelling in Europe, which we hope will play into our favour. We continually see and read how many multiple retailers are struggling in the high street. Here independents have the advantage as they can react quickly to new trends and the fluctuations in demand. Many multiples in contrast rely on container loads of products and long lead times from Far East factories which are far less flexible and are showing to be some multiples’ downfall. We are clearly seeing the beginnings of a move for customers to shop and source locally – if they don’t use they may lose!

Retailing is, and always will be, challenging but interesting and can be highly profitable. Stand out from the crowd and don’t be too safe is the advice I’d give any independent retailer. And fingers crossed for the sun to come out and the tourists to arrive.

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