At a time when big-name retailers are struggling, sweet shops offer an in-store experience that you just can't get in the supermarkets or department stores, let alone by shopping online.
For children, sweet shops are a place of wonder and delight. For adults, they’re a throwback to happy childhood memories. Who wouldn't want to start a business that evokes those kinds of joyful emotions?
Clare Barlow and her fellow business partners certainly saw the potential. Having seen a poster in Mold for a sweet shop franchise opportunity, they decided to invest in and bring the first Spavens outpost to nearby Chester. One year on from launch, we caught up with Clare to find out more about starting and running a sweet shop business.
How would you sum up Spavens in a sentence?
Spavens is a bright and cheerful place of fun and smiles, where childhood memories can be rekindled through indulging in an array of sweet treats, and crafty cravings sated through the enjoyment of pottery painting.
Can you briefly summarise the background to Spavens and what you did before?
Spavens is a family-run small business in Mold. The shop has been in existence for over 30 years and evolved from a simple newsagents to what it is today. Spavens Chester is the first franchise of the Mold branch and is owned and managed by three local Chester mums – along with the vital support of our spouses and families. Prior to deciding to invest in the franchise, we were engaged in a range of different careers – retail, accountancy. public services and teaching – all of which have been useful in developing and running the business!
What inspired you to invest in the Spavens franchise?
One visit after Christmas with our girls to Mold we spotted a franchise poster for Spavens on the wall. After grumbling about our current career paths, a seed was planted that grew almost a year later into our own Spavens shop!
What were the challenges around launching the business? Where did you find your time being spent?
Challenges were numerous and seemingly unsurpassable at times. Finance, building, staffing, health and safety, fire regulations, food hygiene, legal, music, training… these were just some of the big hurdles. All that whilst juggling our other jobs and family life.
The business only came to fruition due to team work, devotion, belief in success, family and friendship – as well as a considerable amount of financial input!
How has the business evolved since your launch? Have there been any particular milestones?
Since the launch just over 12 months ago, the business has gone from strength to strength gaining in popularity and notoriety.
It’s obviously still early days, there’s been ups and downs, but the future is looking bright. We are constantly striving to expand our customer base and increase our popularity, but reviews are glowing and the increase in ‘regulars’ and repeat custom is heartening
Thinking about social media and marketing, what are your tips for boosting brand awareness and ultimately sales?
Never assume that everyone has heard about you – because they haven’t. Regular reminders across a range of social media sites and encouraging people to share posts is valuable. Word of mouth is also very important. We've helped to raise our profile by attending a variety of external craft fairs.
It seems like you do a lot of in-store events. With high street businesses going through tough times, would you say that’s one of the ways that you’ve adapted? Do you have any thoughts on how to survive and thrive on the high street?
The retail industry is constantly changing and we are aware that we need to keep evolving. We do that by thinking ‘outside the box’ to generate new ideas and also listening to our customers about what they want/need and adapting our business accordingly
What are your proudest achievements?
Going from a seed of possibility to the realisation of a dream within 12 months is a huge achievement. As well as the fact that we’re still friends!
What are your top three tips for someone looking to launch a sweet shop business?
1. Research the market and shop around for suppliers.
2. Seek advice and support from existing business owners.
3. Be realistic about the long and short term financial implications of entering into business.
For a comprehensive guide to getting your business up and running, download our how to start a business in 20 days eBook.
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