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How to Keep a Business Running moving from a Retail Shop to an Online Presence

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It’s hard work running your own business – having to deal with managing your workforce, sorting out orders and generally keeping your company running smoothly.

As the demands of a business grows, it becomes more and more difficult for the person in charge to keep up to speed with an increasingly competitive world, whilst also making sure that your business is running as efficiently as possible.

In the case of Shelfstore, a once upon a time retail outlet which moved totally online – the business owner, Tony Fitz-Costa had to focus on all the normal demands of running his own business but also the challenge of keeping the business running whilst transferring it from traditional high street shop to a totally online store.

In this blog we explore just how Tony Fitz-Costa moved his business from the high street to the online shop front.

The Background

At one time, Shelfstore had 4 stores in and around London controlled by a Swedish director who had brought the shelving system over to the UK to sell to British customers. I worked at all four of the London branches and approximately 5 years later the Swedish director wanted to release the ownership and return to Sweden.

I decided to take the plunge and raise the funds to run my own company and Shelfstore Finchley Road NW London became my business around 25 years ago (all the other 3 stores ceased trading at this time). The footfall into the store was declining with more appetite from customers to order online – so I decided to move the business to Maidenhead in 2011 and closed the retail unit in London.

No major changes happened at first – initially, we kept the traditional retail unit as a backup so customers could visit a shop but as our customers are all throughout the UK the retail shop became superfluous to need.  What I did need was more space to hold stock to supply the online customer, hence the move to Maidenhead. I also sought help to produce a website and online process; this is always being updated to make it easy for customers to use.

Moving from Retail Shop to Online

It would appear that moving the business from shop to online was one the best changes for the future success of the business. Saying that, it also seemed to be one of the biggest challenges Shelfstore faced. He added…

Moving the business from high street shop type retailer to successful online retailer would have had to have been our biggest challenge and equally our biggest achievement! Not only this but moving out of London to Maidenhead without closing down the operation or delaying customers’ orders.

The main challenge of being online would have to be providing the prospective customers with product information online when they cannot see the components. We have developed our fitting instructions to online videos and now find this helps explain each component too. And we provide the option for our online customers to receive samples of our pine – so they can touch and feel the materials their shelving systems will be made from. 

This just goes to show that keeping a business running whilst transferring it from shop to online can be done. Keeping the business running can be the biggest challenge but also brings great success when completed!

So just how has Shelfstore improved by being an online business?

Having an online presence enabled Shelfstore to expand their customer base significantly – and their website has made it easier for customers to access Shelfstore’s products from all over the UK.

One of the many benefits that Shelfstore has made available to customers – is the online shelving design wizard. Instead of going through the whole process of getting someone to come in and do all the planning for you – you can now do it yourself – online!

Shelfstore have made everything about being online, as customer friendly as possible – what more would a customer want? There are even videos to show you how your product is packaged and delivered to you.

We hope this has helped answer any questions you may have regarding the changes within the company and if you’re still thirsty for more – stay tuned for next week interview to find out more about the man behind Shelfstore!

By Tony Fitz-Costa. Check me out on Google+

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