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16 Giftware Review May/June 2014 Shop Profile: Saffrons

Customers queue for a taste of

Imagine having a gift shop in a street that is recognised the world over. A street so popular customers can barely move along the pavement at certain times of the year and where sheer weight of numbers means you have to limit the number of people coming into the shop at Christmas. For most retailers it would be a pipe

dream but for Mike and Stephanie Gaskell (right) this is everyday life running two shops in the historic city of York – Saffrons in Stonegate and Little Saffrons in the world famous Shambles.

Harrogate Home & Gift are favourites. They have long-term suppliers but always aim to add a new company each time they visit a show to keep the offering on trend and fresh. Five Dollar Shake cards are popular along with White Cotton and East of India. Mike and Stephanie’s shops particularly

appeal to women with the messages on many products reflecting sentimental, traditional family values. They largely avoid the more racy and raunchy products currently available and find the policy works for them. Although rents and rates in such a

popular shopping centre are understandably high, Mike said the high footfall helps to compensate. He paid tribute to the city council which organises numerous events to bring shoppers into York. Special events include a Viking

The tiny picturesque shops are steeped

in centuries-old history, a magnet for hundreds of thousands of tourists every single year. And once those customers step inside they are welcomed by Mike and Stephanie, keen to talk, to answer questions, and, most importantly, to sell them something to take home. It might be a simple card, it might be a

keepsake or it might be something for the home to remind them of a wonderful day out in Yorkshire. Prices are keen – not much above £20 – but all carefully chosen to tempt shoppers still feeling the pinch from the recent recession. The couple keep a Visitor Book in

Saffrons and the complimentary messages are a testament to their brilliant customer service and attention to detail. Mike said: “People love coming in and talking to you, they tell you the most amazing things about their lives and we have made many friends. Most importantly, they find something affordable that just fits the bill.” Saffrons first opened in a former

jewellery shop five years ago and the couple snapped up a tiny shop in The Shambles for their second, Little Saffrons about 18 months ago. When they started both had retail experience working for major high street stores but wanted their own business. They started very carefully testing lines

in small numbers and reordering those that sold well. Initially they concentrated on greetings cards and associated gifts and have gradually expanded as they have learned more about the gift business. The couple go on buying expeditions together - Spring and Autumn Fairs and

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