02 Sep 2020

@ Home with Samantha Gibbs, Nest

Ahead of Autumn Fair @ Home, which kicks off on Tuesday 8th September, we've been talking to some of our panellists to learn a little more about them and their businesses. Today, we hear from owner and manager of Nest boutique, Samantha Gibbs to get some of her insights into the world of independent retail.

Tell us a little more about Nest

Nest has been trading since 2002 and at first was a stand alone bricks and mortar gift boutique in a leafy suburb of Leicester. It sits within the city boundaries, in a cosmopolitan area with around 60 other independent shops. We then went on to trade online and whilst that affords us the luxury and advantages of both on and offline, Nest works wonderfully serving the local public, so we added a concession in a garden centre to the business and two years ago open another local shop in a village location serving a very local market. 

What do you love about being an independent retailer?

I absolutely love the relationship that you build within a community, and I love the instant feedback we gain from the customers about what we are doing and the products we are offering. I thrive off the trust that the customers put in us and that brings its own sense of responsibility that we have to live up too. On a personal note I love the flexibility it affords me as a working parent, I can feel like a full time parent when I want to and haven’t had to miss out on events as the children have grown up. Now they are more independent I can see my future my work life balance finding a new equilibrium. It has its own disadvantages obviously but I can so very easily see through those with all the flexibility it grants me.

Do you think more people have been shopping local in light of the pandemic?

Absolutely and that is evident from the conversations that we have daily with the customers, they are grateful to the effort we have out in to make sure we are open. It was noticeable with the city shop as the noise was beginning to get louder regarding a local lockdown, of which we all now know, Leicester was the first. We have seen and experienced first hand the affect that had. On the other hand having the village location outside the local lockdown area highlighted to us how grateful the customers were to have us and how important we are within village life to the local consumers. Along with the other local shops, we helped facilitated a safe and reassuring place for them to come, whilst the larger stores stayed closed and couldn’t action measures quickly. 

What lessons have you learned from the lockdown?

I think I have always known what an amazing team I have and how dedicated they are to the businesses survival but this has certainly highlighted it. Being able to move quickly and change focus as and when we were presented with a new set of circumstances was so important. I feel we were responsive and kept up with the changes as they happened.  it almost goes without saying that having a team that is prepared to do what’s necessary for the sake of the business is incredibly lucky and it is not lost n me that without them it could have been a very different set of lessons we learnt. 

What are you most looking forward to about Autumn Fair @ Home?

I couldn’t be looking forward to Autumn Fair @ Home more. I am ready to move another step forward and to finding new and interesting offerings that we can  get to the customers for the coming season. I am looking forward to see what themes and trends are coming through and the Autumn Fair always does such a good job of highlighting these. It goes without saying that I would rather be seeing new products in person and establishing new relationships, there is always such a buzz about finding the next bog thing that customers will love, but this will be the next best thing and we are ready for it.

Do you have any words of positivity to share with our readers?

I think its really easy to see the advantages of online businesses at the moment and the gains that could be made are palpable, however, to only look that far would be doing an injustice to the resilience and the fortitude that small independent bricks and mortar business have shown throughout the last few years. We have always had to evolve and those that can, with efficiency and thought, have a huge opportunity to grow and succeed. By the very nature of who we are as a society, we are always going to want to engage, communicate, touch, smell and generally absorb our surroundings and whilst we still want to do this there is every opportunity for retail on the high street, in whatever guise it creatively takes, to survive and thrive. Retailers are used to thinking outside the box and there is no difference now, retail has never stayed still and as a fast paced, ever evolving industry we have to acknowledge that and embrace it. There are many exciting times ahead and we need to see through the pessimism look to the future, retail will always be here, we just have to hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

Join Samantha and our expert panel on 9th September 2020 at 1pm. 

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