Business Spotlight

We meet our independent business owners to understand how they have been adapting their businesses to help customers shop safely and locally.  

Hootie Toot Jewellery

In 2018 Lesley Powell opened her shop Hootie Toot in Stevenage Old Town. She sells handmade wire work jewellery with ethically sourced and fairly traded materials, crystals, festival wear and gifts.

How have you adapted your business as a result of Covid-19?

I think we all have to work a lot harder to attract customers, it is not an option to wait for people to find us. I am really active online. I have Facebook and Instagram and post very regularly. Although I have been closed in lockdown I have been communicating with my customers throughout providing them with options for shopping safely. 

I created my own online shop and I will post anywhere in the UK.

If my local customers buy online early in the morning, I can often have it delivered to them for a £3 flat fee by the end of the same day.  I use Box Bike, a Stevenage-based bike courier and delivery service. They use bespoke Dutch e-assist cargo bikes and I like the fact that they are free of pollutants.

It is very important to me and many of my customers to be environmentally friendly and I am a single-use plastic free shop and offer a range of vegan-friendly products too.

 

I also operate a click and collect system, customers can ring me or use the online shop and I can have their order ready for them to collect safely. 

Because I sell lots of small items I also operate a virtual shop. Customers make an appointment to video call and we look around the shop together, they can see my products from the safety of their home!

When lockdown ends we will offer private appointments for people who would like to take the time to shop alone.

What safety measures do you have in place to protect shoppers?

I have made sure that my business is safe by following government guidelines for retailers. I have signs to remind customers to wear masks and I provide hand sanitiser at the entrance of my shop. 

I sell, and wear, a fabulous handmade cheery face mask, and I have a screen at the cash desk to support social distancing. I like to be positive and tell people what they can do in my shop rather than put lots of negative signage everywhere. 

 

My shop is small and packed with stock and I like to serve customers personally and allow them time to browse. I have implemented a queue system and in poor weather I have a waiting room upstairs in my shop so they can wait in comfort. 

Why should people shop locally?

If people want a diverse and interesting high street then they need to shop with local businesses whenever they can.

However it is a two-way process. To attract shoppers, businesses need to adapt to suit customers needs. The whole time we have been in lockdown I have been coming to the shop to dress my window regularly so that people have something new to see when they are on their daily walk. I work hard to find things that people want to buy that are a little unique.

When you shop in your local high street you have human interaction. I love to chat with my customers and after the year we have had we all need a bit more human contact!

 

In 2017 Luke Hannington and Brain Keay opened Revolution Records in Stevenage Old Town. The shop is a record collectors paradise and it sells records, singles, CDs, music CVDs, t-shirts and memorabilia.

How have you adapted your business as a result of Covid-19?

We are a tactile business, our shoppers ordinarily love to rifle through our racks to find new music or old favourites to add to their collection.  Customers enjoy the musical atmosphere and chill while making their selection and our listening room allows people to hear music before they buy. All of this requires social connection and we are really proud of our business model. This past year has been a year of adapting. We know that people have been buying music to listening to at home during lockdown and there has been a vinyl revival so our customers still wanted to buy from us.  We set up a shop to sell our products online, customers can buy online and arrange to collect it from the shop, and we increased our use of social media to connect with customers and enthuse them about new stock as it arrived at the shop. 

What Safety Measures do you have in place to protect shoppers?

When we re-open on April 12th we will re-instate our one way system. Customers will be asked to use hand gel and wear a face mask before they enter the shop. 

We will be allowed 5 shoppers at any one time but there will be a safe queuing system outside of the shop and we are hoping to add some tables outside so customers can have a coffee to drink on the house while they wait. 

Why should people shop locally

When people buy from a local shop they are contributing to the local economy and keeping the high street open. We offer a personal service, a huge depth of knowledge about our product and about music. We love chatting to our customers and sharing our passion for music. Face-to-face service is incredibly important in retail, I can get to know customers and recommend something they will enjoy listening to. 

How will you welcome shoppers back to the high Street on 12th April?

We have lots of new stock! We have new and sealed records and new box sets. I just urge everyone, whatever your age or music preferences, to come down and find something new to listen to today. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bike Stop

Monica and Martin Brown have been the proprietors of Bike Stop in Stevenage Old Town since 2012. The extensive building houses rooms upon rooms of motorcycle equipment and clothing and comprises a coffee shop on the ground floor.  

How have you adapted your business as a result of Covid-19?

When lockdown was announced in March 2020 we closed the business immediately in accordance with government guidelines and gave ourselves some time to reflect and plan our response to restricted trading conditions. Initially people were not allowed to use their motorbikes for leisure purposes and so our business was immediately affected. We invested in a new and sophisticated online shop and we ramped up our social media activity. We installed a studio on the shop floor from where Martin makes short films to demonstrate our products which we post on YouTube and link to our Instagram and Facebook pages. As a sector, retail and the way people shop, is ever-changing. Covid has increased the rate of change; to compete with others in our niche it is imperative for us to adapt and learn how to use all the business tools at our disposal. We are not afraid to embrace  technology and use it to  communicate with our customers and refine our service procedures. 

What safety measures do you have in place to protect customers?

We close during lockdowns but we do offer click and collect and mail order. We are looking forward to re-opening in April and have many safety measures in place. We have head protectors for customers to wear when they try on our motorcycle helmets. These are freshly opened for each customer. 

Our shop is a Tardis; there are many different rooms on our first floor and so we are able to separate customers and still provide them with personal service. Our static bike is still available for people to try out the fit of leathers and other clothing, we clean it thoroughly in between each use.  Of course we have all the usual safety measures, perspex screens in our cafe, a one way system on the shop floor, we all wear masks and use hand sanitisers.

 

 

Why should people shop locally?

Stevenage Old Town has so many niche independent businesses. Because we stock highly valued brands, and we have such an extensive range, we have a large customer catchment area and our customers regularly travel up to 2 hours to visit our shop. It is really good for the local economy if our customers spend time in the town and visit other businesses to buy goods and services. This local cross referral and increased dwell time doesn’t happen if people buy on the internet.  Stevenage has a motorcycle heritage and we think that our business provides an important link to this heritage. This local distinctiveness is what makes a town unique and interesting. We really hope that Covid has changed peoples mindsets a little, that they see value in supporting the local business community.

How will you welcome people back to your business when lockdown ends?

We have planned our first event for July and we really hope that it will be safe to deliver it. We will have the CCM motorcycle display bikes and team members at our shop. Racing legends Dougie Lampkin and Carl Fogerty the Superbike will be here as CCM ambassadors. 

We are just really excited to see people in our shop and coffee shop again. You don’t have to be interested in motorcycles to come in for a coffee and cake!