So far TryAshbourneFirst has been about Ashbourne’s High Street. I’ve also written many times about Ashbourne’s markets and their importance to the town. In a week when Carry Somers is spreading the work about Pachacuti at the Chelsea Flower Show it seemed about time I talked about the online part of Ashbourne’s economy.
Of course it is always best for Ashbourne if people spend their money with local retailers. The statistics show just how important this is. According to http://www.independentshops.co.uk 70p of every pound spent locally stays in the local economy (through the proprietor paying local suppliers, wages to employees, rates to local landlords etc). Other reports have the figure as high as 83p in the pound. This compares to possibly as little as 5p if the spend is with out-of-town-multiples or national chains. In February, the Payments Council reported that 58p of every pound is spent in supermarkets. There is a steady drain of wealth from our area caused entirely by our spending habits.
Thankfully in our area we are also blessed by bright independent retailers who are extending their High Street presence into eCommerce and bringing some of that global wealth back to Ashbourne. I have a list of local online businesses here https://ashbournevoice.wordpress.com/try-ashbourne-first/. The mantra could be extended as TryAshbourneFirstAnd AshbourneOnlineSecond. There are some excellent websites which represent their business well and which bring serious PR and trade to the town. Of course, online allows retailers to have a far greater storefront in terms of reach and range of product. As well as extending businesses online, others such as Heidi Hammersley’s Fashion for Eternity have complemented the retail presence with a market stall. There are many brands now publicising what they do through Twitter, Facebook and blogs. CW Sellors, Pachacuti and Guitars4U are excellent examples of local businesses that “get it” and have a really good online image.
The world of online may seem easy by comparison to struggling on the High Street but the challenges are there too…only different. A retailer has a storefront which any visitor to the town will see. The challenge is to make it attractive and then ensure there is sufficient footfall into the town. For the online retailer they don’t have the immediate visual impact and have to fight to be heard on a global scale.
I’ve recently learnt about www.sturbanclothing.com – an urban clothing online business based in Ednaston. Have a look at the site as a great example of an online retailer understanding their customers. I don’t pretend to understand the subculture but I love the vibrancy and edginess. They have been established for 14 years now selling independent clothing brands to the youth market. This is not really competing with anything in Ashbourne and the market for the products anywhere but on the web is unlikely to be large enough – its a perfect eCommerce product. Glyn at Sturban Clothing is passionate about what he does and has built a fantastic website which builds the brand. He knows his customer and has blogs and podcasts to attract more visitors. He is active on social media with a very strong following. A huge amount of work had clearly gone into building and maintaining a unique brand.
His story is fascinating. In 2003 he took over the business from the previous owners because he was passionate about the market and the opportunity. He has had two enormous challenges to face which wouldn’t affect anyone but an online business. Firstly he bought the business but not the website domain. The owners of the domain offered to rent it to him for £250k! Glyn’s front door to the world – effectively his goodwill, PR and advertising was taken away from him overnight. He changed the domain name to theurbanshop and was back up and running rebuilding the brand. When he tried to trademark the name he was challenged by a ladies fashion brand called Urban Shock and he began a legal battle to get ownership of, effectively, his own business. The argument was that there could be confusion over the two names. The legal wranglings continued and although Glyn won the argument on a couple of occasions the judgement, and the costs, went against him and he had to start all over again with Sturban.
The nature of the business is that clothing is imported from around the world and so exchange rates become an important factor and then, on top of everything else, Google changed the rules. All websites compete to appear when relevant searches are carried out. Behind the scenes a growing skill is to optimise the websites to appear higher up the rankings when someone uses a search engine. The objective is to appear on the first page without having to pay for advertising. Google changed their algorithm and thousands of businesses lost their storefront to anyone who didn’t know the url http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Panda.
Thankfully St Urban is still in business, generating unique content, and bringing wealth to our local economy. It is one of the growing ranks of local businesses competing in a global market. Their’s is a fascinating story and Glyn deserves to be successful with the energy and passion he puts into his business – he is a serial entrepreneur.
As an extension of his experiences he has now set up a Facebook group for local companies with a Social presence to work with each other learning and promoting their business. If you would like to join it is here https://www.facebook.com/groups/471730009569611/
If anyone has any more insights into local businesses competing online I would love to hear about them and publicise their activity. We should TryAshbourneOnlineSecond