In business, as in most things, you learn your best lessons by just getting out there and doing it. But when you’re a small retail startup with minimal funds, how can you afford to test the water?
This is precisely the problem that the mobile payments company iZettle sought to tackle with their 12 Hour Store initiative last month. Six startups were given a unique, 12-hour opportunity to open their very own store on London’s busiest shopping street. The results, say those involved, were “absolutely amazing.”
Participants in the project were each given full rein of an Oxford Street retail unit for 12 hours, one day after another, from the 26th October to the 2nd of November. Overnight, a team of designers transformed the store into the optimal space for each brand, while the companies were set up on iZettle’s mobile payment system, allowing them to take payments via an iPad app without the need for an expensive merchant account. All six seem thrilled with the experience.
Gabrielle Schoenenberger, creator of Braw Scotland, says that she saw “record-breaking sales” and gained invaluable brand exposure, as well confidence in approach stockists. “I now have proof it does sell,” she said.
The designer, whose fabrics are inspired by “the heritage, the scenery, the architecture,” of Scotland, felt that the chance to actually try out her products in a real-life, heavy-footfall store surpassed all expectations. “In Scotland we’re actually quite lucky,” she says of the business support available in the country. “But what iZetttle have done has exceeded all that.”
“It was very life-changing for me,” agrees IAMVIBES founder Tom Hardless, who had previously used social media to market his Buddhist-inspired designs. “I’d never had a chance to interact with customers [in person]. It was just a huge wave of emotion to see the brand logo 8-10 foot high in the window… We made a month’s worth of sales in just 12 hours.”
Like Tom, Boskke’s Jake Morris says that he has now “caught the bug” when it comes to pop-up stores, with the company planning a series of similar events over the next year. Boskke, which is run by brothers Jake and Patrick, builds on both the family ceramics business, and Patrick’s Royal College of Art design background, to create striking indoor gardens that are grown across the ceilings of houses and flats.
The “stunning” shop environment created by the designers really helped to show the potential of the product, says Jake, attracting droves of passers-by, “payment on the spot” for purchases – and great feedback that will help the brothers refine where and how they sell in the future. The whole experience was “really great fun,” he adds.
Like Boskke, British Christmas Jumpers, chosen as the project’s winners by iZettle, is built on the back of a family business. But, Director Bhavik Masters, the iZettle was able to give them a chance to experiment with a very different model from the wholesale “white labelling” structure that the founders were used to.
While 75% of the business has typically involved supplying the British-made clothing items to large scale retailers, says Bhavik, the chance to promote products under their own name created “great brand awareness” and an exciting opportunity to sell direct to the public.
“We’ve never had a marketing budget,” says Bhavik. “But I’ve always wanted to open a pop up store in London.”
“The iZettle team were incredible – they made it really easy,” he added.
Of the six companies involved, only one had previously had the opportunity to test their products in their own shop setting: The Bluebird Tea Company, which had just opened its flagship store in Brighton. But, while tea mixologists (and couple) Krisi Smith and Mike Turner had already taken the plunge into retail, they say that the visual creativity, which included giant copper teapot fixtures and pipes giving out real steam, inspired the team to keep improving their existing space in Brighton. “They built our store for us… it was beautiful!” she says.
Plus, says Krisi, the experience of running a “crazy busy” Oxford Street store fuelled their ambitions even more – and they are now hoping to open a second outlet next year.“The orders are flooding in,” she says. “It was a really, really successful day.”
Click below to see iZettle’ video coverage of the project.