Emma Jones: Reducing friction yet further for small businesses to sell in the physical world

Emma Jones: Reducing friction yet further for small businesses to sell in the physical world
Emma Jones
Emma JonesOfficial

Posted: Thu 15th Aug 2019

Having just opened the third Clicks and Mortar pop-up shop in Edinburgh, we are fast learning what works - and what doesn't. Enterprise Nation founder Emma Jones explains what happens next.

When you hear something three times, you conclude it must be worth a listen. In the past few weeks, I've heard commentators, founders, and industry experts refer to the vital role physical retail now plays in the life of an online seller.

In a recent ICSC report [The Halo Effect], the key finding was that a physical store is an essential ingredient to the success of an online retailer:

For emerging brands, defined as those less than 10 years old, new store openings drive an average 45% increase in web traffic following a store opening.

Andrea George who runs retail at Bruntwood (the company behind Manchester's Hatch) recently stated at an Enterprise Nation event that small online businesses are fast realising that selling offline is a powerful route to building a brand and The Couture Club founder, Scott Shashua, when asked the question of why they opened a shop in Dublin replied 'It's a lot cheaper and way more effective than a billboard ad.'

Our response to this growing need for physical retail from small businesses has been to launch Clicks and Mortar; a campaign where we are opening up shops and filling them with online sellers. I wrote about it five days after opening our first shop in Manchester on 3 June.

Having just opened the third shop in Waverley Mall in Edinburgh, we are fast learning what works - and what doesn't.

Helping small businesses sell on the High Street

The single aim of Clicks and Mortar is to reduce the friction points for small businesses selling on the High Street and in shopping centres. Those points of friction include finding an empty shop, identifying a landlord, negotiating a lease, filling the shop with stock, getting adequate insurance, staffing, visual merchandising, payment solutions etc.

We offer shops that come in high footfall locations, pre-furnished, with payment via Square, insurance via Direct Line for Business and a basic tenancy agreement, at a cost that's within the budget of most small businesses at £150 per week with a minimum commitment of two weeks.

Yet one point of friction remains. Up until now we have asked sellers to come in to the shop and sell their wares, believing that customers are more likely to buy from the founder.

Yet many online sellers see spending 2 weeks in a shop as time out of their business that they can ill afford and/or they feel they don't have the skills and confidence to attract customers in to a shop, engage those customers in person, and then convert that engagement into a sale.

In our next shop in Sheffield, set to open in September, we are refining the model yet further to one where sellers simply send stock to the Clicks and Mortar store and we will curate the store (think of a small business department store) and sell the products, whilst hosting 'meet the seller' days where the founder makes a celebrity appearance to meet customers and tell the story of the business origins and growth plans.

We await with interest the results from testing this version of the model in an attempt to build a 'retail as a service' solution. As small businesses have got so used to moving in to serviced office space, plugging in and starting work, they should also have the same offer when it comes to retail ie simply paying to plug in products and start selling.

What this doesn't solve is building the skills and resilience that founders require to be a success in physical retail, as well as online. These are skills we feel every modern business owner will need. But no-one said this would be a quick fix - there's a way to go yet in opening up physical retail and making it work for small firms but we'll keep trying and testing!

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

Apply to sell your products in a Clicks and Mortar pop-up shop here.

Emma Jones
Emma JonesOfficial
Following a degree in Law and Japanese, Emma joined international accounting firm Arthur Andersen, where she worked in London, Leeds and Manchester offices and set up the firm's Inward Investment practice that attracted overseas companies to locate in the UK. In 2000, bitten by the bug, Emma left the firm to start her first business, Techlocate. After 15 months, the company was successfully sold to Tenon plc. The experience of starting, growing and selling a business from a home base gave Emma the idea for Enterprise Nation which was launched in 2006 as the home business website. The company has since expanded to become a small business membership community of over 75,000 people who benefit from events and support: online and in person. Enterprise Nation also presents a campaigning voice to government and the media on behalf of its members. In 2021, Emma was awarded a CBE for services to small businesses and entrepreneurs.

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