In the retail game it’s hard trying to stand out as in independent. When we initially started Room 356 we wanted to focus on selling furniture, homewares and an array of gifts. Looking back things were so different when we began. Retail has changed so much and a lot of that is down to social media and technology. We never really started out with a firm plan. We were open to evolving and seeing what direction the business was going to go in.
We chose well known homeware brands that we liked and also worked with smaller businesses who made beautiful cards, candles and jewellery. I have to say, no one wanted furniture, so that was quickly pushed to one side. We found a gap in the market where there was a strong demand for affordable but stylish lighting, so we quickly found these products to add to our range.
All of our homewares however where mass produced and we were buying from bigger named brands that had large minimum orders and each item we had to order at least 12 of each.
The prices were very affordable and because the products were well known we were always likened to other shops by our customers. ‘Oh you remind me of ……’ ‘…….. sell these products’. At first I thought, that must be a compliment to be likened to someone else. Maybe one day we will stand out as a well known shop, but still being new on the scene, I understood this would take time.
As we began to sell on affiliate websites and broaden our retail outlets, I realised how competitive it was out there. Always having to be very competitive on pricing and wary of what other shops were selling, not wanting to have the same offering. Whilst also wanting to create our own unique clear identity.
After a stumble in the road, feeling deflated by selling the same products as everyone else. We were given the confidence by a business friend to seek products that were handmade and work with local makers on designing our own collections. This was something that we always wanted to do. But it was only until someone else put it to us so clearly, that the light bulb moment came. It was almost a reassurance that what we always wanted to do could be possible.
I was concerned initially about margins and also being able to manage stock levels and quantities. Also how would we find these people? Instagram was a fantastic place to seek talented new makers and designers to work with. We are so lucky to work with so many talented folk! Also we started to discover smaller brands instead of the bigger brands. Wanting to support the smaller businesses who had a great and meaningful story behind their products and were produced ethically and sustainably. It was great having the free reign to design our own range of products and bring them to our customers both online and in store. We were unsure about the higher price points and if they would even sell, but this never seemed an issue for our customers. For selling one beautiful handmade mug, we would of had to sell four mass produced mugs to make the same profit. Plus it felt better for the soul to be able to say that the product was made locally and you wouldn’t be able to find it anywhere else. We just knew this felt right.
We have now managed to create a collection online and in store where by our products are handmade or produced and designed by small, independent brands. Some of our products are exclusive just to Room 356 and we hope to continue on this journey. The bigger picture would be for all of our products to be exclusive to Room 356 but this will take some time. That is the vision, but we are still firm believers of allowing our business to grow organically and to let things evolve naturally. Retail is so volatile and year on year it is never the same. One thing we know for sure is to keep going you have to do what feels right for your brand in order to stand out. Customers want integrity and want to feel that you have something that no one else can offer in order for them to keep wanting to come back.
We are looking forward to expanding our exclusive product ranges and continuing to find items that are produced with a story behind them.