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www.giftwarereview.net Giftware Review July/August 2014 17


‘Constant newness’ is the answer


Find something different and make sure you can’t be beaten on price, was the advice to gift retailers from expert buyer, Simon Woolgrove (below). After years as a toy buyer, Simon is


currently a senior buyer with members-only luxury lifestyle store, Achica.com which was launched in 2010 and has a list of four million customers growing at 25,000 a week. The audience


listened with fascination as Simon outlined some of the secrets of Achica’s success saying: “We do great prices – that’s part of the reason for private members’ clubs. We have a very wide choice of good quality products and it’s a brand-led business. We are doing constant newness.” The figures speak for themselves – 87 per


cent of the membership is female with 51 per cent housewives or part-time employed. And 40 per cent of its members are ‘very affluent’. Simon said:


are within earshot of customers.” Loyalty cards are seen to be important


in the retail industry but Jenny said staff greeting customers didn’t cost a thing and made people feel slightly more special. When account managers move on, she


wondered what processes were in place for their customers. “Retailers say to me, ‘that company used to look after me, they were fabulous when Peter was there’. Jenny said the most important thing to remember was: “The delivery of customer


service and customer excellence is not about doing extraordinary things. It’s about doing ordinary things really, really well. “Ask yourself what you have done to


improve customer service this year or this month. Has it worked? How do you know? My research shows that huge parts of the market still want to go on a shopping spree. Let’s hope that continues for retailers. The message from us to you is, please take service seriously. People make a difference and people can affect your bottom line.”


“The process only works really well because we have a good connection between ourselves and our suppliers. It’s very simple – we do sell at less than recommended retail prices. We put the products and the quantity on the site that we agree with our suppliers for a short period – between three and five days.” At the outset it was very important for


Achica to establish itself with some of the big brands but he said some of the best sales over the last six months were from companies that were not big brands or household names.”


Four million emails are sent to its


members every day. Simon cited the example of Le Creuset cookware, one of the products people would like to have. “It’s very expensive but very good. If you have a piece at home you probably won’t go back to something else. We do find that bricks and mortar retailers are being asked for products that have exposure on our site”. Although the core


business is household products – bed and bath, kitchen and dining – the categories are constantly expanding. Having been successful with art and design and food and drink, its latest area is antiques and vintage. And since opening its office across the Channel


it has been successful with French brands unknown in the UK. Acquiring members, which was done


through TV and radio advertising and social media, was very expensive but had established the club at its present level. The Achica magazine has a print run of nearly a quarter million - larger than many popular home and style publications. Asked what changes


gift shop retailers need to make in a world that was changing round them he said: “I think the answer to small shops is exactly the same as when I was a bricks and mortar retailer – you try and find something different so you’re not hassled on price.” He confirmed his


company’s commitment to good customer service saying it opened with two people in its service centre and now has 27. “We attempt


to answer email queries within four hours. Service is


very important but it’s expensive. It can make your business but if you’re not careful it can break it.” And for those wondering – the most


money is spent online with Achica at 9.15am on Tuesday mornings.


Apprentices for the gift business


Good apprentice schemes are on offer to all aspects of the gift industry and are a great way to develop businesses and help young people into work. Oliver Ashton (left) heads up the


apprenticeships’ organisation Jump! and was at The GA meeting to explain the Government scheme and how it can benefit companies. Jump! recruits, screens and shortlists candidates for employers. He said: “It is a way to grow your own


people from the bottom up, from the grass roots, training them in the way that you do business, understanding your customers.” Although many people still thought apprenticeships applied to trades they


actually applied to all aspects of business including customer service and digital media. The apprentices are given the


opportunity to gain a BTEC or NVQ qualification during their 12 month employment contract and the majority stay in employment at the end of the year with nearly two thirds staying with the same employer. Recommended pay is £2.68 but Oliver


said employers were encouraged to pay more. For employers who take on apprentices


there was free recruiting, screening and shortlisting as well as free training and development for their employees, he said.


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