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Retail


White Mint


Anticipation was building for months ahead of White Mint’s May 2015 opening at the historical side of Berkhamsted’s high street. A strong social media presence and tantalising window


signs heralded the new arrival throughout Spring, and by the time owners, Paul Cheshire and Chris Dell opened the doors everyone in town was keen to check out the new arrivals A thriving and affluent market town in Hertfordshire,


Berkhamsted has an enviable mix of independent and multiple retailers on the high street, including a large independent garden centre, Marks & Spencer and one of the busiest branches of Costa Coffee in Europe. As a comfortable Home Counties patch, the town is


strong on antique shops, restaurants and clothing boutiques, but was missing a contemporary gift retailer to fill the gaps that more traditionally-styled local stores had left open. The plunge into bricks and mortar retail followed hot on


the heels of White Mint’s online shop, and regular stalls on Berkhamsted’s weekend markets to see what local consumers wanted. “We had the website for at least a year before opening up


the store,” says Chris. With a background in IT, he is very practical and takes care of the business administration, while Paul is the creative who always dreamed of being in retail. “I decided we should start out with a low risk online option and test the water via the local market. This was very useful for gauging what the local population wanted and setting the right price points,” said Chris. When a shop lease became available in a picturesque,


historically-rich block at one end of the high street, they competed with 17 other businesses to secure the position. “We were very lucky,” Chris acknowledges, “as the landlord is community minded like us and wanted to regenerate the building. “It happened quickly and took us a bit by surprise as we


hadn’t planned to open up a shop so soon, but with hindsight the timing was perfect and gave us that push to take things to the next level.”


Opening up in May gave them a chance to hone their


merchandise, work on a promotional strategy and get to know locals in the run up to Christmas. This key trading time would prove to be an eye opener, far exceeding expectations with four times the usual weekly turnover. They kicked off the festive season with a drinks party to


get locals in the mood for shopping, while the inspired decision to open the town’s only Christmas grotto proved to be a fabulous draw throughout December. “For us the Christmas event was critical,” says Chris, “as


being at the far end of town we need a reason to get people down here. Over 200 families visited the grotto and we had great feedback from everyone, the whole thing put us on the map.” On the White Mint ethos, he says. “We trade on our


reputation and want it to be a destination store. Our intention is to bring something new to our high street, not replicate what other stores are doing or compete with our neighbours. It’s a close knit community and we want to cooperate with our fellow shop owners as we’re all in the same boat and can help each other.” The website still functions as an effective sales and


marketing vehicle, with traffic going up dramatically since the store opened and – more recently – since White Mint launched a click and collect service for local customers.


16 Giftware Review & Home Interiors January / February 2016


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