Rant: the challenges of being a four wall store

The challenges of being a four-wall store

“Is it me?” the bricks and mortar retail stores cry. We sell experiences and offer direct interaction with our indie business owners who are willing to impart an abundance of passion and knowledge to our customers. Our owners kiss their weekends goodbye, on a daily basis say “no” to yet another charity case, counsel lonely locals who just come in for a chat and pay ever increasing public liability insurance, workers compensation and, of course, staff wages, rent and another new license (from footpath to two annual music licenses).

The ‘culture of discounting’ mentality hasn’t helped us either. Creating customers from ‘deal of the day’ websites (you know the ones I’m talking about) has been a disaster for small business owners, who are asked to work for almost nothing. Sure it promises to sell the ‘shop local’ slogan, but let’s be honest, the only thing it really delivers is a grooming of the consumer to buy only when offered heavily discounted items and services. Are they really going to return to you when you charge your normal rates? And who else would work for only 25 percent of their award wages?

Then parking meters were passed by local council. Then the landlord came knocking wanting another minimum three years of my owner’s life plus a substantial rent increase –  and that’s when I heard my boss yell, “Enough’s enough. I want my life back! I want some respect for the work that I curate and create…and I want a holiday!”

So I, the retail store, looked at my overheads and sales, and saw I was making no money for my boss. There was no profit. So in a weekend, after 12 years, I was packed, moved and swallowed up into cyberspace. I could no longer compete with my younger online store that had steadily become more and more profitable over the last seven years. I became another victim.

Businesses are beginning to recognise that the woman of today has little time for shopping beyond the basics. Online allows her the flexibility to search, compare and shop in her own time globally, plus the thrill of a new discovery and the excitement of another parcel at the door. It’s just like Christmas but it comes around every week. And for my former owner, her online store appears to allow her more flexibility, greater profit and maybe even that elusive holiday!

However, her heart is not completely lost on the bricks and mortar store – not since the pop-up phenomenon raised its head. Pop-ups can offset that desire and more, offering a real world window into the online world, and the opportunity to play with locations, hours, products and experiences. Just as the workplace shifts to short contracts, so too has the retail space in the form of pop-ups. So occasionally she will allow her retail store to ‘pop up’ in creative, vibrant and diverse neighborhoods. Yours could be next!

This July Etelage Pop-Up Jewellery Bar will be at Breathing Colours Gallery in Balmain with Jewellery Workshops to be held at Flourish Arts, Birchgrove. For more information go to www.etelage.com or email info@etelage.com

• Words: Christine Smalley, Etelage.

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