By Kate Marsden
We’re heading to Scotland this week, to take a look at a beautiful shop which has recently relocated from Northern England. Have a wander around the lovely looking space that is Pencil Me In…
Tell us a little about you. What do you do?
Hello, I am Sarah and I own Pencil Me In a stationery shop in Elgin, Scotland
What does a typical day involve?
A loaded question – it’s just me here at Pencil Me In, I do pretty much everything, we open at 10am, Tuesday to Saturday so that’s where you’ll find me serving customers, tidying cards and keeping our OCD display table straight.
Days are a mix of: Organising our social media posts, interacting with stationery fans online. Reviewing new product submissions or researching new designers to bring on board. Stock counting – and re-ordering. Sweeping the floors – pencil printing, doing the books and managing cash flow. Networking with our local artist groups and independent trader groups. I do allow myself the luxury of a fortnightly window cleaner.
Where do you work? What is your shop like? What do you enjoy doing when you're not working?
Our shop is in Elgin in North East Scotland, we have a great location on Batchen Street – fighting the fight for a better high street. The shop is a light and bright space, with greeting card wall, pencil bar, gallery wall and stationery table. People enjoy coming in and exploring our wares – there is no hard sell.
When I am not in work I enjoy the beaches and coastal path we are lucky to have here in Moray. We also have a large DIY project in the new old house we bought so that takes up some time - and my favourite hobby, eating out and trying new restaurants (independents of course)!
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing owners of independent shops at the moment?
As I mentioned, the High Street fight – encouraging people into their streets to spend, having enough of the product that people need (greetings cards) versus want (a lovely new print).
Any uncertainty in the economy can lead to people holding back on treating themselves and others – Brexit has the potential to create that uncertain atmosphere. A weak pound means bringing in anything in Euros or US Dollars has become more expensive which is not helpful.
What ambitions do you have for your business over the next few years?
We just opened 5 weeks ago here after relocating from Salford. The rest of the year is about cementing ourselves here in Elgin as a shopping destination. I’d like to begin work on my own collection of stationery where I see the gaps in the market. I’d like to get to a point of employing staff and the big thing – opening a second shop would be great.
Do you have any tips for fellow small business owners and designer/makers who are reading this and may be just starting out?
Get friendly with spreadsheets and your numbers. They will help you with your sums and your planning – I have a background in banking which helps massively.
Any designer or maker that is starting out with the idea of selling in shops at any point in the future needs to work out a wholesale and retail price point from the start. That’s the biggest mistake I see from makers/crafters – the retail mark up just isn’t there.
For anyone who wants to open a shop – it honestly isn’t as complicated as it may look – I’d happily give advice to anyone who is keen – top tips negotiate hard, get legal advice on any contracts, and think outside of the box for fixtures and fittings.
Had you realised the Just A Card campaign message suggests cards as an example of a small purchase - we're about encouraging all sales as they keep businesses afloat?
I think the Just A Card message is clear - that you are encouraging customers to make small purchases – that something instead of nothing can make all the difference to a maker or shop.
How important is the Just A Card campaign message to you and your business?
I think it is very important – we first shared is when it launched online, it really does sum up how independents survive – but at the same time if you are a designer/maker/shop owner you need to be the change you want to see. So don’t be shopping in Tesco when you could be at the butcher.
What do you think people can do to support Just A Card, and how will you be doing so?
It’s about taking the essence of Just A Card – supporting all independent businesses be it on your high street or in your friend circle. I have 308 friends on Facebook – I’d say about 10% of them have shopped in my store (physically or online) – people need to take a look around at the difference their small change can make.