By Jack Hayward, Roberta Radu, Tom Robinson and Henry Willis
We headed into the Laines to see whether two similar small businesses are being affected by the recession…
Since the country plunged into its worst financial woes in decades, fears have risen about the welfare of small businesses so we wanted to find out just how a couple of Brighton’s own small shops were going about tackling the credit crunch.
We popped into the Laines to have a chat with the manager of the Brighton Bead Shop and with the staff of one of their direct ‘competitors’ Kerrie Berrie’s and it soon became clear that both businesses had very clear and similar ideas about what makes a small Brighton business a success.
Keeping it niche…
Both jewellery shops in the Laines have come up with their own business models and they both agree that individuality and ‘keeping it niche’ is the key to success.
“The shop has been here for 26 years and we’ve made it through quite a few recessions” says Jo Jones the manager of the Brighton Bead Shop who thinks that people still flock to the store because quite simply “they pay less to make their own jewellery rather than buying it.”
Just a few doors down is Kerrie Berrie’s who have put a new twist on the Bead Shop’s simple but proven formula: “I imagine we would probably do better if the recession wasn’t happening but we try to be different and sell more up-market products than similar shops” said a sales assistant.
The history and community of the North Laines also seems to play a vital role in the surprisingly healthy state of these local boutiques and this was supported by both shops.
“Kerrie Berrie’s hasn’t made any difference to us really” said Jo who is confident of continued success as their “prices are lower than at [their] ‘competitors’ and becuase they ” have been here for such a long time now.” She was also keen to emphasise that the Bead Shop like to just “focus on [them]selves” rather than falling into the trap of concentrating too much on ‘rival’ shops.
It seems that self-focus is of paramount importance to both businesses and that they both agree that this and not attempting to get one over on the competition is the best way of tackling the recession.
While financial worries are rife nationwide, the Internet has provided a new platform for expansion for smaller businesses and both the Bead Shop and Kerrie Berrie’s are trying to cash in on such opportunities.
Kerrie Berrie’s employees spoke enthusiastically about the opportunities of using the web to further the business and touched particularly on the opportunities involved with using daily deals websites such as Living Social to offer discount packages to their existing and potential customers. However, they are yet to fully embrace social media due to their small workforce: “We only have four people working here so social media use can be too time consuming for us but I’m sure it is great for other people.”
The Bead Shop on the other hand now place a very high value on social networking as a key marketing tool: “Marketing is really important and we make great use of Facebook and Twitter for that and have really brought these up to date in the last year.”
A brief summary…
So, while much of the country continues to struggle including some big high street names, Brighton’s small boutiques appear to be thriving and defying the odds and this was never made clearer than when Jo Jones of the Bead Shop responded emphatically when asked if they had any worries about the future: “No, no” she said, “we’re doing just fine!”