After watching her daughter-in-law struggle to gain exposure for her handmade wares, Wendy Jackson decided it was time to lend a helping hand to the struggling retail sector.
Jackson is the founder of Shops to Share, a shop-sharing website aimed at anyone who wants to share or source shop space. It is described as “the retailers’ meeting place”.
Jackson talks to StartupSmart about why bricks-and-mortar retail will never lose its appeal, and how the shop-sharing concept has the potential to transform the retail sector.
What gave you the idea for Shops to Share?
When fibreglass and gel nails first came out I decided to open my own one-woman salon in a local pharmacy.
In return for my 1.5 metre squared floor space, I promoted and sold hand and nail products for the owner. The arrangement worked extremely well for both of us for years.
I had the exposure I needed in a location that I loved and the shop owner was able to offer an extra service in his pharmacy as well as an extra sales assistant.
I then handed the arrangement over to one of my clients and both parties benefited greatly for many years as well.
However, when my daughter-in-law recently started a home-based business, she struggled to find suitable exposure for her gorgeous handmade items.
I realised that there was an urgent need for a website where those who have retail space and those who want it can find each other.
How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?
We funded it ourselves and start-up costs are not yet conclusive.
How many staff do you have?
No paid staff yet but I have two highly qualified helpers.
How do you promote the business?
We have started to engage online marketing and PR, social media, and we are also distributing brochures throughout markets and small retail businesses.
What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?
We are launching now (in 2013). We believe people are going to quickly embrace the value and opportunity provided by this website.
The idea of a more community-friendly, interdependent retail sector could mean survival for many.
Our greatest hope is that this will help to boost small business nationally and help our small retailers to not only survive but flourish and end each month with more cash in their pockets.
There are so many retail-related websites nowadays. How is yours different?
We are not competing with anyone but rather we support all small retail. We are facilitating real solutions for a healthier and more interdependent retail sector.
We offer small retail store owners, entrepreneurs, mumpreneurs, market stallers, website owners and anyone looking to share retail space – whether online or on the ground – the opportunity to make their business better.
Sharing shop space could provide all of the above types of retailers with greater opportunity to increase their income.
What has been your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Our greatest challenge has been patience to see this project unfold because we are excited to be able to facilitate beneficial change to the retail community.
We believe that this opportunity will be embraced quickly, and that it will make a real and significant difference to the businesses and lives of so many retailers, from the bigger stores to the smallest start-up.
We love that Shops to Share will give real opportunity to those who are stuck in the background and can’t break into mainstream retail because of financial restrictions.
We believe that Shops to Share will give them a better chance at breaking into their niche and getting some real exposure for their products or services.
What’s the biggest risk you face?
Our biggest risk is that retailers would rather succumb to the tough economic climate than open their minds and doors to the financial help that is available to them in the form of shop-sharing.
Is there anything you would have done differently?
No. I love our branding, the Shops to Share spirit and the motive behind this idea. I also love that the cost of advertising on Shops to Share makes it accessible for everyone.
How do you see the retail landscape changing in the next few years?
We have a positive outlook for the retail landscape.
There are many benefits to online retail/shopping but, at the same time, the advantages of the authentic retail experience – where you can touch, feel and try on – cannot be overlooked. This will never lose its attraction.
We also believe that more multifaceted stores will emerge that create a more complete shopping experience for customers.
For instance, women’s clothing stores that also offer beautiful bath products, jewellery and a café in the back courtyard where you can pick up a bunch of fresh flowers on your way out (five retailers operating out of one store); a nursery that also offers a lawnmower repair shed, a craft corner and a specialty foods section also offering locally-grown organic veggies (another five retailers operating out of one store).
So many cafés and restaurants have wall space that could provide their owner with added income, and a local artist with great exposure for their pieces.
The sky’s the limit as to the combinations of products and services that could appeal to the target market.
These types of stores offer a wider range of products to their customers as well as a more pleasing overall experience, which could keep their customers in the store for longer.
We are hoping that Shops to Share will facilitate a winning combination for smaller retailers in that they would be offering the charm and personal touch inherent to their type of retail, along with a wider variety of goods and services within the one store.