Thirty years ago the notion of a shop without a shopkeeper would be absurd. Today, however, it’s just another light burning brightly in the diverse skyline of the 21st century economy. If you make bespoke products from the comfort of your own home studio, you may feel that your entrepreneurial ambitions can be all too easily torpedoed by a lack of a physical premises.
For a long time this wasn’t a problem. Retail spaces were fairly affordable and easy to come by if you were prepared to settle for something a little off the beaten track and away from the bustle of the highstreet. Banks were fairly forthcoming with business loans so raising the cash to secure them was fairly straightforward, and an entire generation of creative types from graphic designers to artists to couturiers to engineers had the luxury of their own retail space within which they could both create and sell their wares.
A combination of economic misfortune and the steadily rising costs of retail premises have put paid to that, however. The cost of a high street presence (even one that’s not necessarily on or near the high street) becoming increasingly unattainable for small businesses with the multinational corporate giants hogging all the areas with the best foot traffic. Moreover, securing funding for a small business can be extremely challenging, with business lending having stagnated to below pre-crisis levels for years.
But as Bob Dylan once sang, the times they are a-changing. With many predicting the death of the highstreet the time is riper than ever for creatives to set out their stall in less conventional ways in both the digital and the physical world.
Marketing is everything
While there are options for retailing outside of the digital world, digital marketing is a tool that retailers need to get conversant with if they expect to gain a foothold in this ultra-competitive global marketplace. You don’t need to do an IMC Masters program online, but you do need to establish a social media presence and establish some form of content marketing. If you haven’t the time to create a marketing presence, you should consider outsourcing it to a third party provider.
Retail premises require hefty down payments, extortionate rental prices and pricey overheads. Kiosks… Not so much. Kiosks in malls, makers markets or community centers can all be great outlets for you to ply your wares. Unlike e-commerce, kiosks allow you to make a personal impression on potential customers, allowing your personality to shine through (never underestimate the added value that comes from your personality).
If setting out a kiosk doesn’t appeal to you, eCommerce affords you a significantly larger reach, enabling a potential global audience to peruse your store. As in any digital enterprise, however, it’s important to choose the right platform…
WooCommerce is looks really professional yet is really easy to use, requiring no coding knowledge.
Shopify also looks great, but will take a hefty commission from each sale.
Magento is simple and affordable but can be hard to customize to your branding without any programming knowledge.
If you’re looking for a secure way to make payments, you could do worse than Braintree, Balanced Payments or Stripe.